Young A Dynamic Leader For NHS Volleyball Squad
By KEN HAMWEY
Staff Sports Writer
Ella Young is finishing her third and final year of volleyball for Natick High in stylish fashion.
The 5-foot-11 middle hitter is a top-notch captain, leading in a variety of ways. And, although four games are a small sample size, the Redhawks’ senior is getting her share of kills (23) and blocks (9). But, it’s Young’s academic efforts and her perspective on competing and co-existing with covid-19 modifications that make her a very special student-athlete.
“I’m fortunate to be able to play my senior year,’’ said Young, a two-time National Honor Society member and a four-year high honors student. “We’re all making the best of dealing with the changes and modifications. Even with wearing masks, no line judges, no benches and sanitizing, we’re just glad to compete.’’
Young is quick to emphasize that “it’s the health and safety of everyone in our community that’s the top priority.’’ And, she’s thankful officials have found ways to schedule sports events while coping with the coronavirus.
“People have worked hard to make athletics possible,’’ she noted. “They’ve strived to make our environment safe. It’s important for me and my family to get the virus under control. I have relatives who are high risk. The vaccines, hopefully, are a step in the right direction.’’
Every time Young is on a volleyball court, it’s a step in the right direction for the Redhawks. A starter as a sophomore and junior, she was a prime contributor in helping Natick qualify for tourney play twice. Last year, she had 101 kills, 38 blocks, 23 service aces and a hitting percentage of .304 — quality statistics that were compiled after missing three matches because of the flu.
The most memorable match of her career occurred against Acton-Boxboro during her junior season in the first round of the Sectional Tournament. She was returning after battling the flu for 2½ weeks.
“I had worked hard on my game,’’ Young said. “When I entered the match, I got multiple kills and blocks and played a solid all-around game. The victory enabled us to advance to play Needham, which eliminated us from the playoffs.’’
Her coach, the legendary Peter Suxho, admires Young’s strengths on the court and her leadership as a captain.
“Ella has improved a lot,’’ he noted. “She’s a very good attacker who relies on a high volleyball IQ, technical skills, an instinctive nature and athleticism. Her leadership is solid, on and off the court, and she’s supportive of her teammates.’’
Young, who started playing volleyball at age 12, not only is passionate about the sport, but she also embraces her role as a middle hitter.
“Volleyball requires skills and it’s so important to keep improving them,’’ she emphasized. “I like the sport for its fast pace and the need to communicate with your teammates. Playing the hitter’s role is enjoyable because getting a good kill is satisfying and making a key block is positive. The keys to getting kills are finding open spots, jumping effectively and making sure your timing and positioning are good. Jumping and precise timing also lead to blocks.’’
The 17-year-old Young entered the Fall 2 season with some specific goals. Since there are no sectional or state playoffs, her team objectives are to win as many games as possible and defeat Natick’s top competition — Needham and Newton North.
“Needham and Newton North are well-coached and have talent,’’ she offered. “Both teams are strong offensively. My individual goals are to enjoy the season and improve on my kills and hitting percentage. It would be nice to be selected a Bay State Conference all-star but it’s not a prime concern.’’
Young likes the Redhawks’ experience and skilled talent and she’s appreciative of Natick’s other senior captains — setter Alison Fahy and outside hitter Lauren Pole. “Alison was a captain as a junior,’’ Young said. “So, her leadership is effective and valuable. She also is consistent in delivering the ball to where it has to be. Lauren is vocal in a positive way. She gets great placement on her hits and she’s a very capable server.’’
A fan of Suxho, who’s won State titles at Natick and Millis, Young likes his “tough-love’’ approach. “Coach Suxho’s advice is unfiltered,’’ she said. “He’s a good motivator who knows how to develop team chemistry and he always has high expectations for his players.’’
Young, who has yet to select a college, plans on majoring in computer science. As for collegiate volleyball, she likely will play at the club level.
No matter where she’s competing, Young, whose family moved to Natick when she was three, focuses on performing at a high level. “My priority is to do my best,’’ she said. “Winning, reaching my potential and having fun are all part of my athletic philosophy.’’
The Redhawks were 3-1 after four matches and Young is pleased with the early results.
But, the numbers that matter most for Ella Young aren’t wins and losses. Or her kills or blocks. It’s the numbers that show the pandemic fading.