Seven years after being cut from the Rim Country Middle School seventh-grade volleyball team, Jade Heglie has been named an Arizona Coaches Association North All-Star team member.
The 18-year-old Payson High School senior was chosen to the prestigious squad in a voting of Class 1A-3A state high school coaches held in December.
Lady Longhorn volleyball coach Arnold Stonebrink lauded Heglie for continuing the sport after suffering the disappointment of not being selected to the middle school team.
"She stuck with it, worked hard and was rewarded with making the team the next year," he said.
Although Heglie became a RCMS team member as an eighth-grader and went on to play on the PHS freshmen and jayvee squads, she did not fully blossom until her junior year.
"She was an average player on the jayvee team then began her standout play as a junior on varsity," Stonebrink said. "Her hard work and dedication paid off when she became a very steady and accurate passer as a libero her senior year."
Following the 2006 season, 3A East coaches named her all-region first team.
At the time she was chosen, Stonebrink praised Heglie saying, "She is one of the most fundamentally sound passers I've ever seen. Her 2.51 serve receiving mark -- on a scale of 0 to 3 -- represented a .4 increase over her 2005 standard."
Heglie dedication to the game also included participating on the Club Rim team the past two off seasons.
This year, she is a member of the Valley-based Molten club team.
Two more stars shine bright
Also named to the ACA North All-Star team, along with Heglie, were PHS seniors Tori Wilbanks and Brooke Cannon.
"I am very happy that Brooke and Tori were named to the All-Star team," Stonebrink said. "Their selection was no surprise and is the culmination of successful volleyball careers at Payson."
Both Canon and Wilbanks were also all-region first team selections.
In the off-season, Wilbanks played on the Rim Club team along with Heglie and several other PHS players. At the onset of the current basketball season, Wilbanks opted to give up the sport, saying she wanted to concentrate on volleyball in hopes of earning a college athletic scholarship.
Stonebrink predicts she has the talent needed for playing at the next level.
"Tori is by far the best hitter I've ever had," he said. "Not only is she an animal (at) hitting, but she is also a dominant blocker and worked very hard to become a starting back row player and a solid passer."
Statistically, Wilbanks led the 2006 Lady Horn team in hitting with a .327 mark.
"That is mind-boggling and over .100 higher than anyone has hit for me," Stonebrink said.
Cannon, the East Region's 2006 Most Valuable Player, is a member during the off-season of the Valley-based Club Red team.
Stonebrink believes the recognition she is receiving is well-deserved.
"She was superior in many categories -- serving, blocking, hitting, hustling and leading," he said.
He also lauded her as "a coach's dream. She made my life much easier."
The star clash
Although the exact date for the annual ACA North vs. South volleyball game has not been set, it will be played in June on the campus of Eastern Arizona College in Thatcher.
The North team, of which Heglie, Cannon and Wilbanks are members, will be comprised of the top graduating seniors from North and East region schools.
The South team will include stars from South and West region high schools.
Blue Ridge head coach Tami Ellsworth will coach the North team and will be assisted by Lucinda Nash of Monument Valley.