Skilled and stalwart
La PORTE — On La Porte’s volleyball roster, there’s only one player listed ‘outside hitter/defensive specialist.’
That’s junior Annalise Warnock.
That designation speaks to her versatility as a player.
“For a while, I only played front row, because I used to be tall, but I didn’t grow anymore,” Warnock said. “So I moved to the back row and I became a libero for a solid six months. But then, I went back to doing both. And ever since then, I practice both, and I work really hard at both of them. That’s just kind of helped me stay in shape.”
Warnock played libero when she was on the Dunes 13U Black team, just a year after she began playing volleyball.
Her father, Brian Warnock, played boys volleyball at Westville, and he was part of the Blackhawks’ state-qualifying team back in the day, but Annalise said he never pushed the sport on her.
She played volleyball in middle school, while continuing to play with the Dunes Volleyball Club.
“Once I made all the Dunes teams, I knew in high school this is what I wanted to do, what I wanted to focus on,” Warnock said.
Warnock’s greatly aided the team’s 25-3 overall record heading into the sectional. So far this season, she is fourth on La Porte with 164 digs to go along with 107 kills, which is also fourth. She’s fifth with 20 aces.
After seeing her firsthand in practices and matches, Slicers coach Cassie Holmquest doesn’t doubt Warnock’s worth in her flexibility.
“She’s really valuable to our program,” Holmquest said. “She plays all the way around. She serves for us. She plays back row. She hits on the outside. She’s a full-rotation player.”
Besides her adaptability, Warnock has thrived down the stretch of the regular season, helping guide her team to a coveted outright Duneland Athletic Conference crown, the program’s first since 2012, while finishing with an unblemished 14-0 record.
“We’ve been working a lot with her on being smart,” Holmquest said. “She has a really powerful arm and sometimes I think she thinks she needs to go for gold every time. But we’ve been talking to her about, ‘You don’t have to go for gold every time, you need to make a smart play,’ and she’s really done that. So that’s made her even harder to defend because she’s trying to be a little bit more (selective). She just takes direction well in whatever we tell her to do, so that’s nice as well.”
In addition to Warnock’s other attributes, her mental game stands out to Holmquest.
“She’s one of our tougher kids,” she said. “She comes ready to play every game. Nothing seems to really shake her. She’s pretty much in it to win it.”
Warnock said she views her role on the team as more of a defensive player now, even though she’s capable of playing at the net.
“In the beginning of the season, I kind of flip flopped playing all the way around to just playing in the back row,” Warnock said. “So I saw myself as a big help in the back row, and I still do. That’s kind of my main thing. Along with ‘G’ (Gillian Santana), we kind of run the back row, playing together.”
Warnock and the Slicers face Mishawaka in a Class 4A La Porte Sectional opener tonight at about 7. Penn and Plymouth meet in the first match at 5.
Warnock believes it will be crucial for the Slicers to stay positive and not backing away from possible struggles in matches.
“Probably the most important thing for us is to not shut down,” she said. “We can get behind, and we know that’s OK, but we have to stick to that, instead of freaking out on the court, because not a lot of teams have challenged us. This is going to be a challenge and we have to face it.”