Buhach Colony volleyball coach Michelle Osmer could see the difference in her star junior. Megan Callahan was a much more confident player. She had improved defensively. And she had all the tools to be a big-time hitter.
So it didn't surprise Osmer to see Callahan turn in a breakout season in the fall.
"I don't think she knew how good she could be her sophomore season," Osmer said.
"After a year of club ball, she was very confident. She was a completely different player."
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The left-handed outside hitter was the most dominant player in the Central California Conference.
Callahan is the Sun-Star Volleyball Player of the Year.
"We had lost a lot of seniors from last year's team," Callahan said.
"I knew a lot of the players would look to me. I knew I had to step up."
Matt Thissen saw his Golden Valley team step up when it mattered.
GV won its last seven CCC matches to edge Buhach Colony and Atwater for the conference championship.
Thissen is our Volleyball Coach of the Year.
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"Early in the year, I knew we had the physical ability," said Thissen, whose team reached the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I semifinals.
"I wasn't sure about our mental toughness. Ultimately, that's what put us over the top.
"Down 8-2 to Buhach Colony in the fifth game of a championship match...
"A lot of teams would have folded up the tent. We came back to win."
Losing the CCC title on the final night of the regular season was one of the few blemishes for Callahan this season.
The junior came back a different player after playing club ball with the Ripon Rage.
She traveled to tournaments in Texas, Washington and Nevada.
Callahan will be racking up the frequent flyer miles again this year with stops in Maryland, Florida and Colorado.
Colleges like UC Davis, Cal State Fullerton, Santa Clara, Washington and Michigan have shown interest.
"Oh yeah, she can go D-I if she wants to," Osmer said. "UC Davis has already talked to me about her. I'm sure she'll get plenty of letters this club season."
Callahan did most of her damage this year from the left side.
"It's something you don't see very often," Thissen said. "We messed around a little bit with with a left-hander on the left side with Gianna Bandoni.
"The majority of kills from that position come across the court. (Callahan) did a good job of going down the line, which isn't as easy for a high school player."
Callahan was just tough to stop -- no matter what side of the court she was hitting to.
At 6-feet, she can hit over, through and around most high school blocks.
That's why Osmer felt her team couldn't feed Callahan the ball enough.
"I don't think any double or triple teams stopped her," Osmer said.
"Teams had to have a player as big as her to stop her. If teams did put up a triple block, she could tip all day."
Still, it's the thrill of the thundering kills that excites Callahan.
She loves to hear the ball smack the floor.
"It's definitely an adrenaline rush," Callahan said. "When you get yourself in perfect position, you're up in the air and you can see it's a perfect set...
"It doesn't matter if the block is up, because you know you can hit it over the top.
"That's definitely a great feeling."
A feeling she experienced often this season.