Jaclyn Sanchez played a handful of sports growing up, but they would inevitably end up circling back to one in particular.
She played basketball, soccer and a little bit of softball when she was younger, but volleyball was the family sport.
Her mother, Jauna, played college volleyball at Golden West College and then Eastern New Mexico University, where she earned all-conference honors. She has since coached club volleyball at Surf City, TCA and Club H.
All three of Jauna’s daughters — Jordyn (Grand Canyon University), Cami (UCLA) and Jaclyn — have played girls’ volleyball at Huntington Beach High under current Oilers head coach Craig Pazanti. As Jaclyn, the youngest, closes out her high school career as a senior, Pazanti says that having had the Sanchez sisters in the program for so long has felt like coaching his own.
“It’s the tenth year that I’ve had someone from her family on my team,” Pazanti said. “Her oldest sister [Jordyn] played for me for three years, Cami for four and now her. Sometimes, it’s almost like I’m coaching my own kid, and that’s never the easiest thing to do.”
A competitive fire burns within Pazanti, and he can become animated when addressing his team during timeouts.
Some feel more comfortable to speak in a straight-forward manner with family, and Pazanti said he always asks the most of his setters. In a matter of speaking, Sanchez is both to her coach.
“I’ve known Craig since I was, I think, 8 or 9, so he was always intimidating, but I always knew that he was just trying to do what was best for me,” Sanchez said.
In her fourth year on the varsity team, Sanchez understands her coach better than she ever has.
“I’ve learned so much from him in these past three years, going on four years,” she said. “Now, it’s like I’m OK with being pushed around a little and yelled at because I’ve learned so much, and he’s helped me grow so much as a player.”
Sanchez began playing club volleyball in the third grade for her mom’s team at Surf City. She said that volleyball is in her blood, and the constant presence of volleyball at home prepared her to play for someone who demands as much as Pazanti.
“It was good because she was very blunt with me and told me what I needed to do better and what I did well,” Sanchez said of playing for a parent. “I didn’t just think about volleyball during practice. I got it after practice. I got it when I was home all the time. It really did. It prepared me for Craig.”
As a freshman, Sanchez began the season at the junior varsity level. A couple of weeks into it, Pazanti called her up to varsity to run a 6-2 offense with Cristina Baily, which allowed the Oilers to get two opposites on the floor at the same time.
That season, Huntington Beach advanced to the CIF State Southern California Regional Division I final, losing to eventual state champion Edison 25-18, 25-21, 25-13.
The Oilers transitioned back to a 5-1 offense in 2017, but after the graduation of Baily, it was Sanchez’s opportunity to take over the offense.
“Last year was kind of really the year where I saw her become more of a leader because we were so young,” Pazanti said. “Usually, you don’t get that from a junior on a senior-laden team, but a lot of our seniors didn’t play last year. We kind of had to look for that leadership to come from somewhere else.”
Huntington Beach has returned all seven of its starters from last season, including senior opposite Xolani Hodel and senior libero Mia Christensen, who help keep the Oilers in system in serve receive.
Sanchez has flourished with her supporting cast intact. A nine-match winning streak over the past week saw the Oilers (13-4) earn nonleague road victories over Ocean View, Beckman and Orange Lutheran on consecutive days, before going on to advance to the final of the Burbank Tournament. Huntington Beach lost to Chico Pleasant Valley 25-20, 25-20 in the best-of-three title match on Aug. 31.
During that stretch, Sanchez produced averages of 10.5 assists, 2.7 kills and 2.3 digs per set. The Oilers are ranked No. 10 in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 and 2 combined poll.
Sanchez also has a setting coach in Sheri Sanders, who was an All-American and 1989 national champion at Long Beach State.
“She always tells me, ‘Just repetition. Go home and set against the wall. It will make a night-and-day difference,’” Sanchez said of Sanders. “It’s helped me so much to grow and be more confident because I know I can push it out when I need to.”
Sanchez would like to go out as a CIF champion, and she knows she cannot do it alone.
“It’s different this year,” Sanchez said. “We are so much stronger as a team this year. We all connect really well, and we all want the same thing. We all want to win it.
“Every single person on the team, and we’ve got a big team, all of us are willing to put in the work and effort to get there.”
Born: Feb. 8, 2002
Hometown: Huntington Beach
Height: 5 feet 10
Weight: 155 pounds
Coach: Craig Pazanti
Favorite food: Sushi (Rainbow roll)
Favorite movie: “The Fault in Our Stars”
Favorite athletic moment: Sanchez had the opportunity to play at the varsity level as a freshman, which allowed her to play with her sister, Cami, who was a senior outside hitter for the Oilers that 2016 season.
Week in review: Sanchez averaged 10.5 assists, 2.7 kills and 2.3 digs per set in leading the Oilers to nonleague road victories over Ocean View, Beckman and Orange Lutheran, as well as a second-place finish in the Burbank Tournament.