LACEY - That bored stage of adolescence just never happened.
Once North Thurston senior Monika Karney excelled at one project, she moved on to the next without leaving the last one behind. Instead, as Micah McBride explains it, she worked tirelessly to improve her skills in a relentless pursuit of perfection.
McBride should know. He first met Karney when she was a seventh-grader at Chinook Middle School and was known for her precision on the French horn.
Two years later, Karney tried out for the volleyball team, which McBride coaches at North Thurston. She had no background in club volleyball and limited experience at Chinook.
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"She was just this raw talent and didn't really know how it all worked together," McBride said.
He knew it wouldn't be long before Karney's skills caught up with her work ethic. After all, she's an athletic 6-foot middle blocker who uses a 20- to 25-pound medicine ball in workouts while many of her teammates use balls weighing less than 10 pounds. Her hard work has helped her earn the respect of teammates, who elected her as captain along with fellow middle blocker Nicole Nelson.
"Monika is really inspiring as a teammate," said Nelson, a senior who has been friends with Karney since they met in ninth grade. "She's always working really hard to get the team going and getting people excited. As a friend, she's great because she's really balanced. She's always giving as much as she's taking."
If anything, Karney looks for more out of herself.
"She never settled for being just at her level," McBride said.
"She's really improved her skill dramatically every single year," McBride added. "You see some of these top kids that kind of get to a level and just plateau."
Not Karney, who carries a 3.5 grade-point average and takes Advanced Placement government, English and statistics.
"She's an absolute workhorse," McBride said. "Whenever I give her a challenge, she'll take it and expect more. I'm not sure I can push her hard enough."
Of course, a strong work ethic alone isn't quite enough. McBride said his pupil can jump two feet higher than the 7.5-foot net and saves the setters from mistakes with her athleticism.
That drew attention from recruiters and Karney recently accepted a scholarship offer to play at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She also received offers from Utah, Wyoming and several small schools.
"It's everything I wanted and more," she said. "I wanted a large school because of the diversity and then I also wanted a small school because I'm going there for my education. It's a relatively big school, but they only have class sizes of 30 to 40 people."
With the next step in life also comes her latest challenge. Karney plans to major in business.
"My dad is a sales representative and I always kind of admired what he does simply because he gets to meet a lot of people and travel a lot," she said. "I haven't always been comfortable with the idea of sitting in an office all day in front of a computer. I want to be out and about."
That might not only stem for her time on the court but also on the field every Friday with the band. She said her work has earned her a "superior rating" at competitions since she was in sixth grade.
Karney admits the experience is intense at times but not one she has considered giving up. Between volleyball practice and games and band rehearsal and performances, she will stay after school nearly every day until the fall sports season ends.
"I usually don't get home until 9 or 10 at night and then I have all this homework to do," she said. "Lots of AP classes."
When she steps onto the court this season, Karney might not just see changes in her own skills but in how opponents react to her. Timberline setter Megan Birge said at the Tumwater volleyball jamboree that the Blazers must account for Karney and Nelson when they play.
"It's going to be fun to watch her handle that pressure," McBride said. "She never got triple-blocked last year because no one knew about her. This year, she'll go into every gym and people will know who she is, and they're going to set up a defense to stop her. It's going to be fun now - another challenge for her."
And Karney relishes her new role.
"I want to keep pushing to be that middle blocker everyone's talking about," she said.
Those close to her wouldn't expect any less.
Volleyball players to watch
Monika Karney, North Thurston, MB, senior
Cristin Richards, Tumwater, MB/OH, senior
Emily Sampson, Tumwater, S, senior
Christine Hilt, Black Hills, OH, senior
Jessica Levine, Black Hills, OH, senior
Shayley Jacobson, River Ridge, S, senior
Amanda Palmore, MB, Centralia, senior
Megan Birge, Timberline, S, senior
Caitlin McIver, Capital, MB, senior
Rosa Gimson, Olympia, MB, senior