In helping the La Salle High girls' volleyball team win its first CIF Southern Section championship, Haley DeSales brought a series of intangibles.
Her powerful offensive wizardry, shrewd defensive presence and calm leadership skills on the court paved the way for DeSales to become a complete player.
DeSales won't take the lion's share of credit in the aftermath of what the Lancers accomplished, though, knowing she had her teammates at her side to help her take on all challenges.
“I think we all became better players this year and we were hungry to try to win CIF,” said DeSales, a sophomore outside hitter who played one of the biggest roles in leading the Lancers to the Division I-A title. “We went out there and did so by trusting each other and that helped us become better players.
“For me, it was just about going all out on the court. I took every point like it won't be played again.”
DeSales more than made her point on the court. As the Lancers' go-to player, DeSales finished with 389 kills, 220 digs, 55 aces and 38 blocks. She also led La Salle (34-3) to the Del Rey League crown, in addition to earning a spot on the all-league first team before being named the division's player of the year.
It’s because of those accomplishments that DeSales has been unanimously chosen the 2012 All-Area Girls' Volleyball Player of the Year by the sports writers and editors of the Glendale News-Press, Burbank Leader, La Cañada Valley Sun and Pasadena Sun.
La Salle Coach Tiare Tuitama figured some of the Lancers' offensive schemes would center around DeSales receiving the ball before pounding it down on the other side of the net for kills.
“She definitely handled the pressures very well,” said Tuitama, who was named the division's coach of the year. “In playing the outside, she was one of our most consistent hitters, servers and defenders.
“During the playoffs, she was our closer. You want to have that go-to person who can finish things off. In a tight match, she expected the ball and she executed.”
The Lancers competed in Division II-AA last season, reaching the championship match before being bumped up. La Salle played a difficult schedule to help them prepare for the rigorous stretch of playoff matches that culminated in second-seeded La Salle posting a 25-16, 25-20, 29-27 victory against El Dorado at Santiago Canyon College in Orange County.
After earning a first-round win against Saugus, the Lancers bested Redlands East Valley and San Juan Hills before earning a dramatic five-game semifinal road victory against Bishop Montgomery in which DeSales finished with 25 kills.
Her contributions didn't stop there.
In the championship match, DeSales collected nine kills and seven digs. The two biggest kills came late in the final game. With the teams deadlocked at 27, DeSales gave the Lancers the lead at 28-27 with a kill. On championship point, DeSales gave the Lancers the crown with a kill.
“Going into the playoffs, we felt like we had a good shot at winning it all,” said DeSales, who averaged 3.5 kills and two digs per game. “We felt confident, even though we moved up a division.
“None of our players were injured and we had great team communication and chemistry. It was an amazing run and awesome being able to celebrate with my teammates. It didn't sink in for a couple of days until we had people from around school coming up and congratulating us.”
DeSales' teammates fed off her energy, including junior libero Caroline Knop.
“Haley is just a spectacular player,” said the University of Michigan-bound Knop, who averaged 4.9 digs per game and earned All-CIF first-team accolades. “She stepped it up, and there were some key moments when we needed her during the regular season and playoffs.
“She has that ability to put the ball away, plus you could see her maturity level rise on the court.”
DeSales, who completed the season by finishing with 15 kills and 15 digs in a first-round loss to fourth-seeded Clovis in the CIF State Division I playoffs, said she's prepared to keep the Lancers atop the division next season.
After recently finishing the first half of her high school career, DeSales appears to be well ahead of the learning curve.
“Every year, hopefully you are able to improve on one skill or another,” DeSales said. “You can't stop.
“I want to help us keep on winning.”