To win a state championship, most teams need a leader who is also an outstanding player. The one athlete the others can count on to make big plays at big moments.
And the Jackson High School volleyball team had such an individual this past season in senior Leigh-Ann Haataja.
Simply said, Haataja was the best player on the best team in Class 4A last fall as she led the Timberwolves to the state title. Jackson swept past Bellarmine Prep in its state opener, knocked off defending state champion Mead in the semifinals, and routed Issaquah in three sets in the title match.
And Haataja, who was outstanding throughout the tournament, was named the Most Valuable Player.
For her accomplishments in helping to lift Jackson to the pinnacle this past season, Haataja was a finalist for The Herald’s Woman of the Year in Sports for 2010.
Haataja, who is headed to Portland State University on a full athletic scholarship, was at her best during the season when it mattered the most. She had a season hitting percentage of .320, but she boosted that mark to .465 in the playoffs. Likewise, she hiked her statistic for kills per set from 3.46 in the regular season to 4.54 in the postseason.
At state, she had 20 kills against Bellarmine, 18 kills against Mead, and nine kills and 15 digs in the title match, plus an ace for the final point.
“She is,” first-year Jackson coach Ashley Allen said in December, “probably the best volleyball player to come through Jackson High School. I don’t know what Portland State looks like, but I’m sure she will have an impact on them right away. I would be shocked if she didn’t.”