From a young age, Paige Wilson seemed destined to wear a Jackson High School volleyball uniform.
Now a senior, Wilson started playing when she was 7 years old, and since her neighbor was Ashley Allen, then the Timberwolves’ head coach, she had the opportunity to serve as the team’s water girl.
Wilson’s older sister, Casey, also played for Jackson, graduating in 2016.
Jackson has enjoyed success in Wilson’s four years, reaching the Class 4A state tournament in 2017 and finishing each season in the top half of Wesco 4A.
As one of three seniors on a youth-laden roster, Wilson, is leading the Timberwolves in their quest for a No. 2 seed out of Wesco 4A behind Lake Stevens and a first-round bye in the 4A Wes-King Bi-District Tournament, which begins Saturday.
“We had a rough start to the beginning of the season (consecutive five-set losses to Glacier Peak and Mount Vernon on Sept. 24 and 26), but we have really pushed in practice to get better in the second half of the season. Our biggest adjustment has been in our mental game,” Wilson said. “Our skills have always been there, it was just a matter of not getting frustrated and getting down on ourselves. We believe that we can win.”
Wilson, who has verbally committed to NCAA Division III Pomona-Pitzer in California, has been at the center of the Timberwolves’ resurgence, seeking to vary the timing and power on her swings to befuddle opposing blockers.
“Paige has really developed her ability to swing her hands and fool the blockers,” Jackson coach Mindy Staudinger said. “She has also developed a hidden roll shot that can be very deceptive. She is also a strong blocker, making right sides really work on shots to get around her.”
The Herald spoke with Wilson about fooling opposing blockers, her summer job that’s not really a job, and “Sergeant Mike.”
What does it take to win five-set matches, especially in the postseason? Is it more about talent and ability or desire and toughness?
I definitely think it’s more about desire and toughness. You have to believe that even if you’ve lost games, you can still win that final game. It takes good strength and conditioning. I feel like our team has the capability to keep going where other teams might run out of endurance. We have a strength and conditioning coach, “Sergeant Mike” (retired NATO special forces officer Mike Lawson) who works with our program twice per week (doing) a lot of strength and agility drills.
What makes you a tough hitter to block?
I think I’ve been changing my shots up a lot, and I really try to not hit where I’m looking. I’ve been working on a roll shot for a long time. I pretend I’m going up to take a big swing, and I hit the ball low on my palm, and it’s a soft shot that goes right over the block and lands in the middle of the court.
Outside of volleyball, what are you passionate about?
I like to get really involved in my school. I’m in five clubs, and all my friends and I always go to all the football games. I have a summer job, where I work at Camp Prov, a summer camp (at Everett’s Forest Park) for kids with special needs. It’s my favorite thing in the world to do. I love working with kids and working in that field. The kids can be anywhere from 18 months to 11 years old.
What might you be interested in studying in college or pursuing as a career?
I want to go into neuroscience with a minor in computer science. I want to do brain research and work with AI to study Alzheimer’s.
Describe the feeling of getting a perfect swing on a ball and watching it slam to the floor on the other side of the net.
Honestly, the best way to describe it is that it’s very satisfying. It’s kind of a release. I always go over to my setter and thank her for setting a perfect ball, because so many things go into it. It gets me excited and almost a little aggressive. I just want to get that next ball and keep getting set. But I like blocking and digging almost better than hitting. When someone goes up and thinks they’re going to get this massive kill, and you can get it blocked or get the ball up, that’s something you don’t always get. It can be more exciting than getting a good kill.