Julia Wright’s role isn’t glamorous.
It’s even a bit hard to describe, even for her coach.
“She’s like the part of the boat that keeps it steering in the right direction,” said Bellarmine Prep volleyball coach Jody DeGroot. “It might be the rudder. What is the part of the boat that steers it? The rudder?
“She keeps it all even-keeled.”
However Wright’s role is characterized, it’s a vital one. Wright, a libero, is the Lions’ co-captain alongside three-time News Tribune All-Area Player of the Year Courtney Schwan.
Wright is among the best in the state at her position, diving left and right for digs at a pace of 4.1 per set (342 total) on the top-ranked team in the state. But her position certainly doesn’t get as much attention as those who soar through the air and spike winning shots.
She values her off-the-court role even more – being
approachable and keeping the team focused.
“In volleyball, chemistry is one of the most important parts to winning,” Wright said. “If teams don’t get along or have issues off the court, things won’t mesh well.”
Wright is a big reason Bellarmine Prep is 31-0, has lost only two sets all year, and is looking to make its second consecutive 4A state title run when it opens the state tournament against Rogers on Friday at Saint Martin’s University.
“We wouldn’t be near as close to our record without Julia,” said Schwan, who signed with the University of Washington on Wednesday. “She holds us accountable and calls us out during a timeout in the middle of the game if we aren’t passing or playing like we should be. And that is good for us, we need that.”
Interestingly, a player who craves team chemistry initially didn’t even like the team’s best player.
And it was mutual. As freshmen, Wright and Schwan had bad vibes about each other. Neither can pin down why exactly, but it was clear they butted heads.
“I honestly thought she was cocky and she thought she was so good,” Wright said. “Which, actually, she is so good. But she is a lot more humble than I thought she was.”
Added Schwan: “We just didn’t like each other for some reason. We talk about it, and we can’t figure out why that was. I think it’s a girl thing.”
Their distaste for each other quickly wore off the next year after more playing time together.
“Then it was like, ‘Wow, she isn’t so bad,’” Wright said. “ ‘I think I like her after all.’”
They both laugh it about now.
After forming a rock-solid bond with Schwan, Wright has spread her glue-player mentality around, encouraging her teammates, especially the younger ones.
“It takes maturity and time for players to get to this point,” DeGroot said. “But she has always had that. I think she is doing what she needs to do for this team.
“When you have a couple big-time players on the team, you need someone like her.”
Wright’s ability to unite and motivate is why DeGroot hasn’t used more than one libero for the first time this year. That spot belongs to Wright.
“For many years I’ve been the backup or the overlooked one,” Wright said. “It’s just great to finally be appreciated fully and have my role.
“I like to be the team leader, the one who keeps everybody together. I want my team to be a family and not have issues with each other.
“I have always kind of been like that, but I guess this year, as a senior, I’m just kind of expected to be like that anyway.”TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677 email@example.com @Cotterill44