Kendall Walbrecht and Micaela Anderson made the transition to La Cañada High girls' varsity volleyball early by becoming key contributors for Spartans Coach Brock Turner as freshmen.
The duo, which arguably gives the Spartans the best outside hitter combination in the area, had their college plans already set before their senior seasons began. The 6-foot-2 Walbrecht verbally committed to UC Davis in September of 2011 and Anderson, who stands at 6-1, decided on Rutgers University on May 11.
"Good for them," Turner said. "They are both four-year varsity players and I know they've worked hard not only on my team but in the club environment, as well."
Before Anderson and Walbrecht take their talents away from La Cañada, they'll be asked to shoulder a bigger load on offense and defense for the Spartans this year.
In their three years at La Cañada, they've rarely been on the court at the same time during matches.
Turner will use both Anderson and Walbrecht on the back row this year to have them both on the floor at the same time — something they've rarely been asked to do for the Spartans the past three years — to compensate for the absence of starting middle blocker Katie Pierce, who is expected to be out until mid-October with a bone contusion.
It means Anderson and Walbrecht will be asked to serve-receive and play a lot more defense as seniors. It's not foreign territory for them, as they've played on the back row for their San Gabriel Valley Elite Volleyball Club's 17 Roshambo squad in the past.
"I haven't played back row before for Brock, but I am excited Micaela and I will be leaders on the team and will play all around the floor," Walbrecht said.
Anderson said the early committal has been like "a weight off her shoulders" and inspired her heading into her final high school campaign.
"If anything it's going to make me work even harder because I know I have to get better to play at that level," said Anderson, who said she'd also received offers from the Alabama at Birmingham, Houston, Southern Utah and the Cincinnati.
Walbrecht selected UC Davis because she knew a few players on the team and liked the level of competition the Aggies see each year as a NCAA Division I school in the Big West Conference.
"I just really wanted to play Division I and I thought it was the best fit for me. The Big West is really competitive," said Walbrecht, who also had offers from the Tennessee, Northwestern and Rice.
Anderson earned All-Rio Hondo League co-Most Valuable Player and All-Area first-team honors in 2011, when she posted 309 kills, 61 digs, 50 aces and 11 blocks.
Walbrecht was a first-team all-league and second-team All-Area selection last year after she led the Spartans in kills (365) and added 38 blocks and 36 digs.
"She can jump out of the gym," Anderson said of Walbrecht. "She has a high reach and is really athletic. I have seen over the past year she is becoming a lot smarter with her shots, hitting around the block and putting it where the defense is not. She is becoming a better passer and better on the back row."
La Cañada's season kicks off Thursday in a match against Torrance in the Gahr Molten Classic at 4 p.m.
Said Turner: "They're both going to carry on the tradition of La Cañada volleyball and leave their mark on the program this year."