Osbourn Park senior Kaitlin Crutchley is one of the most valuable players on one of the most talented volleyball teams in the state. So why is she envious of freshman reserve Helen Theisen?
In the summer, the two would often run at 6 a.m. Then swim at Meadowbrook Woods for a team coached by Kate Southcott, who also is their volleyball coach. Then work out in the weight room at Osbourn Park. Then help with Clash club volleyball camps in the afternoon.
It was not so much a summer as it was a two-month quad-athlon. Crutchley is seeing and feeling the results, emerging as a more versatile player for the Yellow Jackets (17-3), who open postseason play with a Cedar Run District semifinal game Tuesday night. She only wishes she had started such a regimen sooner, as Theisen has done.
"I just knew my senior year that I needed to work out a little more and put a little more into it," said Crutchley, an outside hitter who said she was disappointed with her junior season. "If I was Helen and had the opportunity, I would have done it [earlier] like she did. . . . I'd rather be busy than sitting on the couch."
The only thing worse than sitting on the couch is sitting on the bench, which Crutchley found herself doing at times in 2003.
"She's not had an easy road in high school," Southcott said, "because she was so good when she was so young and as a junior didn't play 100 percent of the time, and people threatened her time and she struggled with, 'Why am I sitting?'"
Forest Park assistant coach Rob Gaither, who instructed Crutchley two years ago on the 16-under Clash, considers Crutchley a symbol of sorts for the entire Osbourn Park team. He thinks perhaps too much was expected of her last year and that she was not yet ready for that role. The Yellow Jackets themselves might not have been ready for the limelight last season either but this fall have emerged as Virginia AAA Northwestern Region favorites after winning two of three matches against defending state champion Forest Park.
"I'd definitely say if you gave every player in the area a skills test, she would probably have the highest grade," Gaither said of Crutchley. "She's just very technically correct. She does every skill pretty much the way a coach would teach it, and that's the biggest [reason] for her being as successful as she is. . . .
"Last year, as an opposing coach, she was just somebody on the other team that maybe you could get a few points [off] on serve-receive. Not so this year. She's not somebody the coaches can really target in serve-receive anymore. She's passing the ball very effectively now."
All of which has made Crutchley feel more valued. As Southcott has said, opponents can't "serve her off the court" any more.
"Years before, there would be times when I wouldn't play back row, and this year [I do]," Crutchley said. "All the way around I contribute a lot, which I love, because I feel I'm a big part of the team."