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Danner's strong play key for Lightning

Daily Pilot High School Athlete of the Week

Junior has helped Sage Hill to verge of league title as outside hitter and middle blocker.

October 28, 2011|By Matt Szabo
(Steven Georges…)

Maggie Danner had to sacrifice some of her statistics two weeks ago when she moved from outside hitter to middle blocker.

Middle blockers don't always rack up the kills. With freshman middle blocker Kekai Whitford out with an abdominal injury, that was the position where the Sage Hill School girls' volleyball team needed Danner.

Danner, a junior who also plays outside hitter in club volleyball, said at first it was a bit hard to make such a change mid-season. But the newly-minted middle blocker blocked out any negative thoughts prior to the Lightning's huge Academy League match at rival St. Margaret's on Oct. 18.

Danner still was her normal steady self. She had three kills, three blocks and three service aces as the Lightning moved into a tie for first in league, defeating the Tartans in four sets, 25-16, 19-25, 25-20, 25-17. It was Sage's first win over defending CIF champion St. Margaret's in three years.

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"It was really exciting," Danner said. "It's just really easy for all of us to play together. We all love playing with each other, and that makes us have really good communication. I think that helped us in the St. Margaret's match and all this season."

Now the Lightning (18-6, 8-1 in league), ranked No. 3 in CIF Southern Section Division IV-AA, just need to defeat Crean Lutheran at home on Tuesday to clinch at least a share of their first league title since 2008.

Danner, the Daily Pilot Athlete of the Week, has been a big part of the program's rise.

"She's just powerful," Sage Hill Coach Dan Thomassen said. "She has a good balance of power and location on her hits. She really made the difference in us winning some really close matches."

The three seniors are captains for the Lightning. Army-bound middle blocker Zoe Kreitenberg, outside hitter Natasha Sakraney and setter Alayna Lewis are valuable, but so is Danner in her third year on varsity.

"You don't have to be a captain to be a leader on our team," Thomassen said. "I think [Danner's] really an anchor … Her standout skills are serving, blocking and attacking. She really can dominate in all three of those areas. I think Sage has come a long way in the three years she's been here, and she's a big part of that."

Check the Lightning's season statistics, and Danner is third on the team in kills (143), digs (118) and aces (40). She does what's needed, just like she does on the basketball court for Sage Hill as a forward.

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