Xolani Hodel left no stone unturned at Huntington Beach High
It may feel like the end of an era for some who have watched Xolani Hodel compete in athletics at Huntington Beach High School over the last four years.
Hodel’s freshman year was one for the books. She competed at the varsity level in volleyball, basketball, soccer and track and field.
There simply did not appear to be enough hours in the day for Hodel to do what she did, never mind the way she excelled in doing so.
Hodel played a big part in a pair of deep playoff runs during the winter sports season as a freshman. She played center for the girls’ basketball team en route to the CIF Southern Section Division 1A championship game. She also was a forward for the girls’ soccer team, which advanced to the CIF State Southern California Regional Division I final.
“That was one of the best years of sports that I had, that freshman year,” said Hodel, who graduated from Huntington Beach on Wednesday. “We went to the finals in both soccer and basketball. That was so much fun, and I feel like one of the major things I missed were the teammates on both of those teams and not being able to continue with basketball. We called ourselves the ‘Freshman Four.'”
The other freshmen on the co-Sunset League champion girls’ basketball team that season were Sophia Escalante, Nicole Palmer and Marisa Tanga.
More than 700 graduates are honored during a drive-through ceremony at Huntington Beach High School on Wednesday.
In the end, it was volleyball that won out when Hodel had to decide on which sport she would play in college. She has signed with the Stanford beach volleyball program.
“I’ve been around Huntington Beach High School,” Oilers volleyball coach Craig Pazanti said. “I was a freshman in the fall of 1985, so aside from a stint coaching college and a few years when I was at Mater Dei, I’ve been basically around this high school my whole life.
“I can’t remember a better pure athlete coming through the school, I mean female athlete, for sure. Obviously you’ve got [Pro Football Hall of Famer] Tony Gonzalez on the male side, several male athletes, but I don’t remember a female athlete coming to the school since the 1980s, when I’ve been around, that had her prowess when she was coming in as a freshman.”
Hodel started as a middle blocker, then moved to opposite, and concluded her high school career as an outside hitter for the Oilers.
Pazanti said that volleyball was a newer sport to Hodel when she got to high school, but he added that her innate ability to adapt combined with her athleticism accelerated her growth in the sport. He said that he believed that Hodel could have developed into the best middle blocker in Orange County had she been allowed to stay at the position all four years.
Honoring this year’s graduating seniors from high schools in Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, Costa Mesa, Fountain Valley, Laguna Beach and other parts of Orange County.
With a Division I-bound libero also on the team in Mia Christensen (UC Riverside), Pazanti said the position changes came about because he wanted to have Hodel on the court for all six rotations.
“I just didn’t want to take her off the floor, and that was my whole justification,” Pazanti said.
Hodel was a three-time Daily Pilot Dream Team selection for girls’ volleyball, earning first-team all-league honors three times and the team’s MVP award twice.
Excellence did not just come in athletics, either. Hodel finished high school with a 4.66 weighted grade-point average, placing her 10th in a senior class of 699 students at Huntington Beach.
“I hope I will be still training for beach volleyball,” Hodel said of what lies ahead for her. “I hope to be a pro beach volleyball player, but I also want to be able to study engineering at Stanford. I’m not sure what type of engineering yet. I was looking into electrical or energy systems engineering.”
Hodel is still putting the pieces of the puzzle together concerning her future. That is not to say that she has trouble with puzzles, as she can solve a Rubik’s Cube.
Even the math and science-inclined Hodel appreciates when someone simplifies a subject the way that she appeared to do so with sports. She said she felt that way about Dr. Mimi Woods.
“I feel like she was one of the first teachers to really explain everything so clearly,” said Hodel, calling Woods’ calculus class one of her favorite high school memories. “I don’t think calculus is supposed to be that easy, but she made it so understandable.”
Support our sports coverage by becoming a digital subscriber.