By Alex Bosworth Herald Writer
Kylin Munoz doesn’t have anything against volleyballs. But those who watch her play might have a hard time believing that.
The Monroe High School senior punishes them.
A 6-foot-1 outside hitter, Munoz can, with a leap, touch the rim of a basketball hoop, and she pairs that God-given ability with a mechanically perfect swing that makes coaches swoon.
When Munoz smacks a volleyball, it frequently rockets through those unfortunate enough to try to block her. It’s the kind of ability that produces impressive stats. This year, the senior averaged 27.25 kills and 10.3 digs per match, while leading Monroe in total kills (569), digs (212) and aces (49).
“It’s like she was created to play the game of volleyball,” said Kamiak High School head coach Natalie Bowie, whose team defeated Monroe in the District 1 championship in 2006 and 2007 before falling to the Bearcats in this year’s semifinals. “You know going into the game that she is going to get 20, 15, 25 kills.”
More importantly, Munoz has a track record of producing big stats under pressure.
Like in the summer of 2007, when she carried her Washington Volleyball Academy club team into the Junior Olympics gold division with a performance that led club coach Dave Weitl to describe her to ESPN’s Rise Magazine as “unstoppable.”
Or this year at Monroe, when Munoz set a school-record with 48 kills during a marathon match against Marysville-Pilchuck that clinched the Wesco North championship. Or a few weeks later in the district playoffs, when Munoz had 24 kills and nine digs to avenge two years worth of frustrating losses to Kamiak.
“She’s fun to watch …,” Bowie said of Munoz’s athleticism and overall game. “Given a choice between playing a mediocre team and playing Monroe, I’d rather play Monroe.”
For her natural gifts, her work ethic and her ability to perform under pressure, Munoz has been named The Herald’s Volleyball Player of the Year for the second straight season.
For someone of Munoz’s height and leaping ability it’s often easy to skate by at the high school level on raw athletic talent, but that hasn’t been the case.
“She’s a coach’s dream,” said Monroe head coach April Munoz, a former University of Washington volleyball player and Kylin’s mother. “She works 100 percent every time she is in the gym.”
And Munoz is in the gym a lot.
She practices with the Washington Volleyball Academy two to three times a week, driving an hour from her home to the Edmonds area. In addition to that, Munoz spends time in the weight room to improve her conditioning.
And how does someone as dedicated as Munoz spend Christmas break?
She’ll be in Omaha, Neb., for an All-America skills competition on Dec. 21, an event Munoz qualified for after being named to the American Volleyball Coaches Association’s 2008 All-American High School Volleyball Team. Attending the competition is completely optional, but Munoz will be there.
“It should be a really neat opportunity,” she said of competing against top players from around the country.
This season, Munoz led the Bearcats to the district title, which along the way included finally beating Kamiak. “It meant so much (to myself) and Kaitlyn Drew, the only other senior,” Munoz said of the victory.
Munoz will continue her volleyball career in college. She has accepted a scholarship from BYU.
According to her mom, Munoz didn’t much care for the recruiting process and the attention that came with it. “We’re more excited than she is,” coach Munoz said. “She’s a humble person. She could care less.”
BYU, which garnered national attention last year by shocking No. 6 Washington in the NCAA tournament, almost certainly will be rebuilding next year. Munoz made two unofficial trips and one official visit to the Provo, Utah, campus before committing. She made her decision based on a variety of factors.
“I’m looking forward to going somewhere new next year,” Munoz said, “And getting to know the team and the girls … (Faith) played a little factor in the decision, but not too much.”
Beyond college, Munoz hopes to play volleyball professionally.
“I want to pursue volleyball for as long as I can,” said Munoz, who considers two-time Olympic gold medalist Kerri Walsh one of her idols.
Bowie said such a lofty goal is not out of the question.
Said the Kamiak coach: “I wouldn’t be surprised if she made the Olympic team.”