ATWATER — Brigette Berlier remembers what it was like to be the freshman on the varsity volleyball team.
"I was so nervous," the Atwater junior said. "The other girls just seemed so much taller and bigger. Fortunately, we had seniors like Nicole Heller and Nikki Schiber on the team, and they brought me in and made me feel comfortable."
As a third-year starter this year, Berlier found herself in the veteran role, taking younger players under her wing. She took it upon herself to make them feel a part of the team.
As a result, the Falcons had success, finishing second in the Central California Conference and advancing to the second round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 2 playoffs.
Berlier was more than just a leader off the court. She produced on the court as well as one of the top all-around players in the CCC.
After a stellar season, Berlier is the Sun-Star Volleyball Player of the Year.
"She has all the tools," Atwater coach Toni Garcia said. "She hits the ball well. She's getting better at blocking. She's helped with her serving, defensively and hitting out of the back row. She anticipates well. She knows the game and she means more to us than just her physical capabilities. She brings the girls together when they're on the court."
Berlier did a little of everything for Atwater. She finished with 309 kills, 238 digs, 76 blocks and 40 aces.
"Brigette has always shown class on the court and makes big plays during crucial times of the matches that we've played them," said Pitman coach Kristen Pontes. "She shows leadership on the court and seems to be well respected by her teammates, which is number one in my book."
Becoming a player to whom her teammates could turn was something Berlier took seriously.
"This year, I wanted to be a leader and help the girls coming in," Berlier said. "We had a freshman, Brittany Massa, called up, and I wanted to make her feel comfortable."
Garcia says Berlier is great in a leadership role. Berlier is a teacher's assistant for Garcia at school.
"She does a great job of helping other students," Garcia said. "She's like a tutor. It's in her personality."
Berlier also has a competitive side. The Falcons star does not like to lose.
Berlier didn't just compete against teams such as Pitman and Golden Valley, but she had an season-long competition with teammate Hannah Van Warmderdam.
Both are similar players and they were both the top hitting options this year for Atwater.
"It was something we never mentioned to anybody," Berlier said. "We both strived to make each other better. We just both wanted to do well. If one of us did better than the other in a game, we never had to say anything to the other person. We just knew. We pushed each other to be better."
Garcia knows the two love to compete and she let them go at it in practice.
"Both of them are very competitive girls," Garcia said. "I have never brought up stats to them. We never talked about who had more kills, but they know.
"When I put them against each other in practice, it's to push both of them. They both love to compete, but it's a friendly competition. There's no animosity or jealousy. I think it's awesome. They're not looking to grab the spotlight. They just want to get better."
All-Area Volleyball Team
Belen Castillo, Golden Valley, middle blocker, sophomore
Carolyn Schiber, Atwater, setter, senior
Hannah Van Warmerdam, Atwater outside hitter, sophomore
Summer Sanchez, Merced, setter, senior
Rachel Andrews, Buhach Colony, middle blocker, senior
Savanna Barnett, Le Grand, middle blocker, junior
Kourtney Davidson, Golden Valley, outside hitter, senior
Jade Fachin, Los Banos, outside hitter, sophomore
Samantha Seals, Chowchilla, outside hitter, senior
Vanesa Serna, Merced, middle blocker, junior