Chang provides strong presence for Storm

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDOctober 12, 2013 

Squalicum's senior libero Kayla Chang believed her performance against Lynden on Sept. 24 left much to be desired.

Despite the Storm winning in four sets, Chang thought she struggled defending the serve. With a full night to think on her performance, Chang responded in the only way she knew how - going to work.

Practice the following day began with Chang bouncing onto the court before everyone else, and it ended with her coach, Laurie Yearout, making her leave the gym because it was getting too late.

"She yelled at me, 'You need to leave. You ended on a good one,'" Chang said in a phone interview. "I was like, 'No, I want to do more - I have to do more because I am trying to get better.' She literally stood in front of me so I couldn't see Meghan (Lowry) serving at me and wouldn't let me touch the ball."

As team captain, Chang has helped guide Squalicum to a 5-4 overall record with a 4-3 record in Northwest Conference play. While Yearout insisted on Chang going home following a lengthy practice, it was by no means a slight against her.

"Those are the moments that show how competitive she is," Yearout said in a phone interview. "She always wants to do one more rep, and she always wants us to be better."

Chang's competiveness knows no bounds. While some play for fun or for the experience, she plays to win - fun being the bonus that accompanies that.

That's what made a Sept. 19 loss to perennial power Burlington-Edison so difficult. The Tigers are the measuring stick for the NWC, Yearout said, and a straight-set loss provided Chang and her teammates a fork-in-the-road-type moment.

"I don't know what happened," Chang said. "We got out there and got scared and tentative. It was really hard for me, because I could see my team fall apart, and I tried my best to hold them up, but it wasn't working."

Chang seized the opportunity following the loss to hold both the team and herself accountable.

Yearout addressed the team first, and then the players began to address one another, Chang said.

"I just pointed out that it seemed like no one wanted to be there," Chang said. "I was trying to get it into their heads that ... if we are going to be in the gym for 21/2 hours every day, why not put the effort in and be the best you can be?"

Squalicum reeled off wins in three of four matches following the loss to the Tigers, with Yearout continually praising the effort of her senior captain while on the floor.

Chang's position - libero - isn't glamorous. While kills and powerful, soaring spikes often leave the greatest impression on the crowd, it's what Chang does that makes those plays possible. Her sliding across the floor, making one-handed stabs at the ball to keep it alive, has become common place during Squalicum matches, Yearout said.

"She just never wants a ball to go down," Yearout said. "Even in practice, if there is a ball that is going down, for sure Kayla comes out of nowhere. ... Very few balls drop on her side of the court."

Chang's willingness to dive and scrap for every ball has spilled over to her teammates.

"She has set the expectation of how we play defense," Yearout said. "We expect all of our girls to be hitting the floor and going after balls, and that is because Kayla came in and said, 'This is how we are going to play defense.'"

Chang's enthusiasm for volleyball hasn't always been. When she was first introduced to the sport in the sixth grade, she laughed it off because she said she thought the sport was "kind of dumb."

Seventh grade came, and she put aside her previous notion and went out for the team.

Turns out, she was pretty good.

"I just ended up being one of the better ones," Chang said.

Volleyball is far from the only thing that Change excels at.

Chang carries a 4.0 GPA while taking seven classes - four of which are advanced placement.

Yearout said it's her dedication and willingness to devote her time and energy that sets her apart on the court and in the classroom.

"The biggest thing that impresses me about Kayla is her work ethic," said Yearout, who is in her first season coaching the Storm. "She is an awesome kid."

Reach Alex Bigelow at alex.bigelow@bellinghamherald.com or call 360-715-2238.

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