When Lanesha Reagan took the floor for the 4A state volleyball championships as a freshman, she admits she didn’t know just how rare it is to play on that stage.
Nearly three years later, Reagan, who is preparing for her senior season at Snohomish High School, gets it.
The Panthers placed fifth when Reagan was a freshman, but haven’t been back since.
“I didn’t fully acknowledge how big of a deal it was to go to state because I just thought every team kind of got to go there,” Reagan said. “But it really is a big deal and I would love to go back with my team.”
The fact that the Panthers haven’t been back isn’t any one person’s fault, certainly not Reagan’s. She has been one of the best players in the state since arriving on the scene in the 2010-11 season. As a freshman, she was named to The Herald’s second-team All-Area volleyball team and was a first-team Wesco North selection. She was also named to Prep Volleyball’s Frosh 59 list, which features the 59 best freshman volleyball players in the country.
The accolades haven’t stopped rolling in since.
She enters her senior season ranked by Max Preps as the nation’s 18th-best hitter and hopes to improve on that as the season goes on.
“I like to be ranked that high. It’s nice, Reagan said. “I would like to build on that and maybe do better this year, 18th is good, but number one is better.”
Reagan has spent much of her summer preparing for the upcoming season and playing for her club team, the Kent Juniors. In previous years, she played for the Washington Volleyball Academy, but was forced to find a new team this year because WAVA did not have a team in her age group.
Living in Snohomish county and playing for a team in Kent hasn’t been easy. Practices started before the school-year ended and it takes an hour and a half each way to get to and from practice, which sometimes didn’t get done until as late as 9:30 p.m.
Reagan has made the most of playing on her new team, helping it to a second-place finish at the USA volleyball nationals in the American division earlier his month in Dallas. She was named to the all-tournament team.
Reagan and fellow hitter Lauren Hackett, who attends Kentwood High School, led the team to an undefeated record before falling in the championship match.
“Between the two of them, they really carried our offense,” said Steve Arbuthnot, Reagan’s club coach. “(Lanesha) seemed to get stronger each day. Her confidence was growing throughout the tournament. By the time we got to the last day, I don’t think she believed anyone could stop her and she played that way. The two of them together were pretty devastating.”
The semifinal clinching victory stands out as a lasting memory for Reagan.
“Just looking at my team after we got the winning point was amazing,” she said. “Everybody was just so excited. People were crying. Everybody was just so excited that we made it to the finals. We all knew that we could do it, but it was just so different actually doing it and knowing that we were one of the best teams. It just felt amazing.”
Arbuthnot knew what he was getting when Reagan joined the team. Although he had never coached her before, he had coached against her and had been highly impressed with what he had seen.
“The first thing that stands out about Lanesha is her athleticism,” Arbuthnot said. “She is probably the best natural athlete I have ever coached.”
Just as impressive to Arbuthnot is how well she blended in with her new teammates.
“She didn’t bring any attitude with her,” Arbuthnot said. “There weren’t any expectations. She worked hard and she earned her spot and was a good teammate throughout the season. She’s really a joy to coach.”
Arbuthnot admits, having Reagan on his team, rather than on the opposing squad, is a bit less of a headache.
“She is pretty scary on the other side of the net,” he said.
Outside the obligations to her club team and preparing for the upcoming school season, Reagan has spent much of the summer relaxing and spending time with friends. She said she wants to make the most out of that time because she knows it won’t be so easy next summer.
“This summer has been more about me kind of relaxing because I know next summer I won’t really have the time since I will be going to Oregon State pretty soon after school ends,” she said.
But before she leaves for OSU, she remains focused on getting the Panthers back to state. As one of Washington’s premier prep players, there will certainly be a lot of expectation on her to do so.
“I definitely feel like I have extra pressure, but it’s understandable,” Reagan said. “I should be able to help my team in a good way. I like feeling the pressure. It’s never really hurt me or anything — if anything it has helped me. It gave me a goal to look at and be like, ‘OK, this is what people expect. I need to meet these expectations or maybe even exceed them.’”
With her knowledge of the game and undeniable athletic ability, exceeding expectations seems more than possible.
Snohomish coach Alex Tarin noticed the athleticism the first time he ever coached her.
“I was told how good she was athletically, but being told it and seeing it are two totally different things,” he said. “Once you see it for the first time, you say, ‘that’s what they were talking about.’”
Reagan’s athleticism isn’t uncommon at the club level, but for a high-school player it is a bit more rare. Arbuthnot expects Reagan will use it to be one of the best players in the state this season.
“At a high school program, I would think she should be dominant this season,” he said. “She just has to remember to keep working on her fundamentals to get better. She should be a big fish in a little pond when it comes to high school teams. She should be a dominant player in our state this year. I would imagine she will be recognized for that at some level at the end of the season.”
Tarin took those sentiments one step further.
“She is definitely a standout player,” he said. “Everybody keys in on her as our top performer when they play against us. I believe there are many good players in the state, but I believe that we do have the best in her.”
And if she can lead her team back to state — and perhaps earn another trophy — her high-school career will have come full circle.
“It would definitely feel complete if we got there again,” she said.
Aaron Lommers covers prep sports for The Herald. Follow him on twitter @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.