By Ray Hamill — From the court to the beach, one former Big 5 MVP appears to be enjoying a new challenge in college.
Del Norte’s Kaleya Sanchez, who was MVP of the Big 5 in both basketball and volleyball as a senior in 2018/19, has taken her game to the collegiate level, where she is coming off a sensational freshman year in volleyball.
Both on the court and on the beach.
Sanchez intended on playing volleyball and basketball when she committed to Sierra College, but changed her mind when she arrived at the Rocklin School, opting to play beach volleyball for the first time ever instead of basketball.
“The coach said it would help my game,” Sanchez explained.
And it appears to have done so.
“It started slowly,” she said. “It was actually really hard in the beginning because you have to get in sand shape. But I really like the game.”
The 2020 spring beach season was cut short because of COVID-19, but Sanchez says she fully intends to play again this coming spring if she gets the chance.
However, it appears unlikely Sanchez and the Sierra women will get to play indoor volleyball this school year, with several of the Big 8 Conference teams already opting out.
Sanchez says she is considering staying at Sierra through the fall of 2021 to play her sophomore season.
“I’m pretty sure I’ll have another year of eligibility so maybe I’ll stay for one more year,” she said.
Sanchez also says she would definitely consider taking her game to a four-year school after she leaves Sierra.
“That’d be cool,” the nutrition major said, adding, however, that there are few schools that offer her major and that she is considering attending Sacramento State.
She certainly has the talent to play at a high collegiate level, leading a very deep Big 8 Conference in kills (372) as a freshman, on her way to being named to the All-NorCal team.
And the former Del Norte Warrior says her game has evolved at the college level.
“I’ve definitely matured,” she said. “It didn’t get in my head as much. And I learned a lot of hitting positions and I learned how to be smarter with the ball.”
The freshman standout certainly impressed her coaches.
“She’s fun, she’s kind, and she’s family oriented, which is something we look for,” Sierra head coach Vera Nelson said of Sanchez during the season. “She’s a team player all the way. She loves the game, and loves to compete, and that’s a great combination.
“The sky’s the limit for Kaleya.”
With Sanchez leading the way, the perennially competitive Sierra women clinched a fourth straight Big 8 title in 2019 and made it to the second round of the NorCal Regionals.
And the Del Norte native appears to be enjoying college life on and off the court (and beach).
“It was actually pretty fun. I made a lot of new friends.” she said. “We weren’t the best at the beginning but we definitely pulled it together.
“My school is kind of small and it wasn’t actually that much different, but the classes were harder.”
And like many of the local athletes who go on to play in college, Sanchez says she will always fondly remember her high school playing days.
“I’ll remember my senior year and how far we went in basketball and my junior year and how far we went in volleyball,” she said. “And the road trips with my teammates were super fun.”