Enjoying her time in the spotlight

Erik Boal

The move wasn't made with the intent to motivate Jillian Davis.

But Nancy Tinkham's decision not to start the outside hitter in

her first career volleyball match at Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy

wound up being one of the best coaching moves in Tinkham's

illustrious eight-year tenure.

Because once Tinkham inserted Davis into the lineup in the second

game of the Tologs' annual showdown with intracity rival La Canada,

she rarely ever came out.

Not during the remainder of that match, when she had 11 kills in

Flintridge Sacred Heart's five-game win.

Not during the rest of her breakout sophomore year, which was

highlighted by a 21-kill, 23-dig performance against Cerritos Whitney

in the CIF Southern Section Division IVAA quarterfinals.

Not during her phenomenal junior campaign, when she amassed 174

kills, 205 digs and 40 aces.

And especially not during her record-setting senior season.

Initially thought to be on the verge of even making the Tologs'

varsity roster in 2000 -- before joining fellow sophomore Kacey Knauf

-- Davis let nothing stand in her way of conquering the first of many

challenges during her brilliant career.

And it wasn't too long before Tinkham realized that among the

plethora of individuals who had excelled on the court during her

tenure, that Davis would ultimately wind up as one of the best who

ever played up the hill.

Because in an era where attributes such as "competitive spirit"

are falsely bestowed upon too many student-athletes, Davis was a

competitor in every sense of the word.

And it was that overwhelming desire to succeed, combined with her

outstanding leadership skills, unselfish attitude and amazing

physical talents that not only made Davis the most charismatic player

on the area's most captivating team, but also earned her the honor of

being selected as the 2002 News-Press All-Area Player of the Year by

the writers and editors of the News-Press and Burbank Leader.

"I liked being the underdog," said Davis, who joined former Tolog

greats Holly Doran (1996), Danielle Dal Ponte (1997), Megan Hosp

(1998) and Kerry O'Keefe (2001) as All-Area Player of the Year

recipients.

"After I didn't start against La Canada, I always pushed myself

to start and play as much as possible. I was supposed to be on

[junior varsity], but I knew that wasn't going to happen.

"I'm so competitive that I'm not even allowed to play games in my

own house.

"With me, it's all or nothing."

*

And as Davis' senior season unfolded, it became apparent that it

would be all or nothing for Flintridge Sacred Heart in its quest to

reach the Division IVAA championship match for the first time since

1997.

After falling in the semifinals the previous two years, the

17-year-old made it her mission to advance to the CIF final, and with

the Loyola Marymount University-bound Knauf setting her the ball and

the area's best supporting cast -- featuring five All-Area selections

-- around her, it didn't take long for the Tologs to become one of

Southern California's best.

They lived up to that billing by pushing two-time CIF champion and

three-time state winner L.A. Marymount more than any team did in the

postseason, dropping a pair of classic four-game battles in the

division final and the Southern California regional semifinals.

"We never really talked about our goals, they were kind of just

understood," said Davis, who led her team to a sixth-place finish in

the Cerritos Gahr/Molten Classic, losing only to eventual Division

IAA champion Los Alamitos and Division IIA runner-up South Torrance.

"But with eight seniors on the team, we definitely wanted to do

well. I had never been to the finals, but I knew I had to, no matter

what it took.

"Everyone wanted to win under any circumstances. Everyone was so

dedicated and they all worked incredibly hard."

The hard work and determination translated into a memorable

campaign, both for Davis and the Tologs (21-6), who set a new

single-season mark for wins, breaking the old total of 18 during the

team's run to back-to-back CIF titles in 1997.

"She's such a fighter and you can tell she hates to lose," said

Marymount Coach Cari Klein, who watched Davis record 19 kills and 27

digs against her team in the state playoffs.

"She was swinging all the way to the end and you have to

appreciate that type of effort."

Said Davis: "When I got blocked, I told Kacey to set me again. You

can't play scared and you can't look at your opponent like they're

better than you.

"I loved it when people would cheer against us. If it was up to

me, I wish they knew my name and phone number. It gets me so fired

up, it's unbelievable."

The 5-foot-9 talent -- who will walk on at the University of

California at Berkeley -- recorded an area-leading 370 kills in 89

games, which is the second-highest single-season total in program

history, trailing only Hosp, who, prior to her stellar career at

South Carolina, tallied 402 kills in 1997 and 1998.

In addition, Davis -- who, along with Knauf, is a member of Santa

Monica Beach Club's top 18-and-under squad -- amassed a single-season

record 404 digs, en route to Mission League co-Most Valuable Player

honors and All-CIF Division IV first-team recognition.

"She always went 100% and she never hesitated for any ball," said

Tinkham, who secured her third straight All-Area Coach of the Year

honor after guiding the Tologs to their first Division IV state

playoff win -- a sweep at Chowchilla -- since 1997.

"She and Kacey are two of the best all-around athletes I've had

and they were both a pleasure to coach. They were fun to watch."

*

The joy of playing big-time volleyball, combining with Knauf to

post a 50-14 career record and becoming only the fourth three-time

All-Area selection in Tinkham's tenure were probably of the most

remote school of thought for Davis four years ago.

That's because the youngest daughter of Mike and Paula Davis was

raised in a soccer family, with elder sisters Kendra and Lindsay both

paving the way for her to play club soccer in fourth grade.

But toward the end of her junior high years at La Canada, Jillian

took up playing volleyball. She eventually started to play club and

hasn't stopped since.

"[In junior high] volleyball was kind of always an afterthought,

but I enjoyed playing the sport," said Davis, who boasts a 4.098

cumulative grade-point average, in addition to being the school's

senior class activities director.

"After I played club in ninth grade, I started to get really

serious about it and that's obviously why I kept playing.

"There's just something different about volleyball versus any

other sport. Every play is so important and so competitive and it's

such a team sport because you have to rely on your teammates all the

time."

As for Davis, she is still getting used to the prospect of playing

college volleyball without Knauf, who has been on every team she's

ever competed on.

And as for her preparation for making the jump to the next level,

Davis knows all her skills need to be refined, especially on defense,

where she anticipates making the biggest impact.

But even if she redshirts her first year, or even if her career

begins on the bench, don't expect Davis to be there for long.

Because true competitors always enjoy a good challenge.

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