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West Ranch's Sarah McGough: Staking her acclaim

Sarah McGough provides a greater value to her team than meets the eye

Posted: November 6, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: November 6, 2012 1:55 a.m.

West Ranch senior Sarah McGough's experience come in handy this year for the Wildcats.

 

If she played basketball, Sarah McGough would win the sixth man award, her coach says.

West Ranch girls volleyball head coach Gerrit Maxwell explains by saying she is the most valuable player on the court that the casual onlooker doesn’t know about.

“She understands that she doesn’t have to be the girl in the sunshine to be successful,” Maxwell says.

In pro basketball, the Sixth Man of the Year Award is given to the best player who regularly comes off the bench.

That’s where the comparison differs from McGough, a senior and third-year varsity player at West Ranch. She certainly doesn’t come off the bench.

But by playing the position of a right-side hitter, it doesn’t lend itself to as many opportunities to post flashy statistics and make the headlines.

“You don’t get as many sets just because it’s a hard position to get set, but I feel like I’m a stronger hitter on the right side,” McGough says. “So when I get my set, I feel like I’m a much better hitter.”

And the number back it up.

McGough has 170 kills this season, which is second on the team behind teammate Alex Clewis’ 203, though McGough achieved her totals with much fewer balls going her way. This is due to her spot on the rotation in relation to the setter.

She’s helped lead the team to a second-place tie in the Foothill League after falling just a win shy of the team’s first league title in school history.

West Ranch faces Louisville High of Woodland Hills today at 7 p.m. in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section Division IA playoffs.

The Wildcats got here with McGough playing most of the season as a right side, also referred to as an opposite, which is not her usual position, but one that she transitioned into quickly.

“With all the changes, I just try to keep focused on keeping my team positive and keeping myself positive and being someone that my teammates can depend on and come to,” says McGough.

She had played most of her volleyball career as an outside hitter on the left side since she started playing in seventh grade, but found a more natural fit on the other side given her skill set.

“She takes whatever position they offer,” says Marty McGough, Sarah’s dad. “She’s not an outside hitter, she’s a volleyball player, and if that’s what it takes for the team to win, she approaches it just fine.”

The senior team captain made the switch seamlessly.

Though it’s Maxwell’s first year at the helm of the Wildcats, he goes way back with McGough.

The two first came in contact at Rancho Pico Junior High, where Maxwell taught her in PE classes.

As a coach with two decades of combined collegiate, high school and club volleyball coaching experience, Maxwell knew right away he needed to convince McGough to step onto a volleyball court.

“‘Hey, you could be good at this,’” he recalls telling her when she was in seventh grade. “‘You possess all the physical abilities, you’re quick, you’re tall’ and obviously she’s extremely smart.”

A year later, she began taking private volleyball lessons with Maxwell, and she didn’t take long to develop into a varsity caliber player after that.

McGough was called up to varsity during the postseason of her freshman year at West Ranch.

By 10th grade, she was a starter and already beginning to showcase her abilities even among a group of talented upperclassmen on the team that year.

As a junior, Sarah was voted an All-Foothill League first-team player after accumulating a team-high 206 kills and hitting at a .357 clip.

From there, she cycled back into club season and made the 17-year-old elite squad for Legacy Volleyball Club. That team, also coached by Maxwell, went on to claim a championship in the prestigious Volleyball Festival in Phoenix in July.

This year, for the first time in her high school career, she’s playing both front row and back row rotations. That’s meant she’s had to refine her passing and digging skills this season, which is something she says she enjoys.

This past spring, the affable senior also caught the attention of Westmont College, where she committed in May to play volleyball starting in the fall on 2013. Westmont extended her a student athlete grant, which is given to a limited number of student-athletes at the school who demonstrate strong character and exceptional academics in addition to athletic skill.

Maxwell says her commitment had as much to do with her dedication and discipline as it did with her raw talent.

“Any kid that gets recruited to play at the college level has to possess the physical skills to play,” he says. “It’s the way Sarah carries herself on the court and the way she carries herself off the court.”

661-287-5530

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