Volleyball is won and lost at the net, and Drew Norberg controlled the net like none other this year.
South Tahoe did not play many big matches. But when it did, Norberg played even bigger than her 6-foot-2 frame.
"She ended up being the most dominant player at her position in the state," South Tahoe coach Danny McLaughlin said of his middle blocker, who led the Vikings to their first state championship in 22 years. "She was at her best in the state tournament. We worked hard to have her peak at the end of the season, but she went up to a level that even I did not see coming. She made me look like a good coach because I was smart enough to stick her on the court and say, 'Go play!'"
Norberg had 14 kills and four blocks in South Tahoe's three-game title win over Chaparral to cap a senior season in which she racked up 328 kills, 48 blocks and 44 digs.
"The pressure made me play better," said Norberg, the 2012 RGJ All-North Division I-A Player of the Year. "We never really had a match that was that important or intense during the year. It was awesome, though. I love intense games like that. Games that are close and mean a lot."
Norberg said, counter to her coach, that she did not become a better player as the season progressed. She simply focused more keenly.
"I don't think my ability got better. But I got more into it and my energy was better," she said. "I wasn't nervous for those big matches. I was just ready to play."
The only thing that could have made the year better, Norberg said, was if South Tahoe had beat Truckee for the title. The Wolverines were the three-time defending champs.
"I wish we would have played them in the championship," Norberg said. "They're a really good team, but it was nice to have a different winner this year. ... It was great to prove everyone wrong, that South Tahoe isn't the underdog. We're good."
That is a far cry from how Norberg felt when she entered high school.
"I remember being on JV as a freshman and thinking the varsity team wasn't good," she said. "Now, we've changed the whole image of South Tahoe volleyball."
Most of the credit for that transformation goes to Norberg, her coach said.
"As a sophomore she was talented but not dominant," McLaughlin said. "But she became the go-to- hitter as a junior and then took it to another level this year.
"It's like watching your child grow up. To see in someone that they have what it takes, you're busting with pride when they exceed even your expectations."