Emily Liger made a habit of helping her volleyball team exceed expectations this year.

Picked to finish fifth in the Wesco North in the preseason coaches poll, Everett wound up tied for third. Unranked by the state’s coaches entering the 2009 Class 3A state tournament, Everett placed eighth.

Not bad for a team that hadn’t placed at state in 36 years.

And Liger, a junior outside hitter, was a key part of that success.

“She really brought up the rest of the team through (her performance),” said Heather McLeod, who has coached Everett volleyball for 11 years.

During the regular season, Liger collected 36 aces, 251 kills and 201 digs.

What’s more impressive, though, is the fact her numbers improved during the state tournament. Over four matches against some of the best talent in the state, Liger averaged 24 kills, 15.5 digs and 2.5 aces.

A performance like that attracts honors.

Liger was selected to the Class 3A all-tournament team by the media that covered the state event. She also made the All-Wesco North first team and was voted Everett’s co-MVP by her teammates.

Now she can add one more award: The Herald’s 2009 Volleyball Player of the Year.

“I guess pretty much every level you can be (nominated) she’s (succeeded) this year,” McLeod said. “She’s a junior … that’s pretty exciting.”

Everett’s season was a bit of a roller coaster. The Seagulls weren’t expected to do all that well after losing their setter to graduation, but the team received a boost when junior setter Mackenzie Banta returned to the program after performing as a cheerleader last year.

Early wins over Edmonds-Woodway and Meadowdale only helped to boost confidence.

Everett reached the district championship, but squandered a two-game lead and fell to Meadowdale to finish second.

At state, the Seagulls lost their first match, then rebounded with loser-out wins over Peninsula and fifth-ranked Timberline to guarantee themselves a trophy. Everett last reached state in 2006, but hadn’t placed since the Nixon administration.

McLeod gave her junior outside hitter a lot of credit for Everett’s success at state.

“What I was most impressed with is she loves the challenge,” McLeod said of Liger, who has played on the varsity since she was a freshman. “… It was really outstanding to see that her numbers only continued to rise against the best in the state, I think that says a lot.”

The most powerful hitter on the team, McLeod said Liger made improvements in other parts of her game — most notably passing — during the offseason. In addition to playing club volleyball, Liger attended several camps.

“She really does have the desire to get better and better, and play (at the next level),” McLeod said. “She’s willing to do the work.”

Colleges have taken notice — and have begun bombarding the junior with recruiting letters.

“Her mom is saying she can’t even keep track of it any more,” McLeod said of the attention.

Liger has another year before she has to finalize her college plans, but no matter what she decides, her future looks bright, her coach said.

“Someday,” McLeod said, “she could be playing in the AVP (Association of Volleyball Professionals).”

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