Va­len­cia girls bas­ket­ball for­ward

The Signal - - SPORTS - By Ma­son Nes­bitt Sig­nal Sports Ed­i­tor On Twit­ter: @ma­son_­nes­bitt

She’s al­ways been one to try ev­ery­thing out. She loves be­ing a triple-sport ath­lete.”

Ash­lee Ane,

Team­mate of Kayla Kon­rad

In a spa­cious room ad­joined to the court at Honda Cen­ter in Ana­heim, af­ter a post-game press con­fer­ence on March 4, Va­len­cia High’s Kayla Kon­rad basked in the glow of her pro­gram’s first-ever CIF ti­tle as she un­wound tape from her an­kles and cast it aside.

The se­nior wasn’t ready to do like­wise with her high school ath­letic ca­reer.

Af­ter three state play­off games, Va­len­cia girls bas­ket­ball’s all-time lead­ing scorer re­turned to the school’s ath­letic field for just her sec­ond sea­son of lacrosse.

This af­ter she’d taken up or­ga­nized vol­ley­ball for the first time in the fall.

“I just wanted to try some­thing new,” Kon­rad said of play­ing lacrosse. “I thought it would be good to get out of bas­ket­ball for a while and try a dif­fer­ent sport.”

Kon­rad is The Sig­nal’s 2016-17 Fe­male Ath­lete of the Year mostly for her work on the hard­wood, but it’s hard to com­pletely de­tach her suc­cess in bas­ket­ball from the fear­less en­thu­si­asm with which she em­braced two un­fa­mil­iar sports.

“She’s al­ways been one to try ev­ery­thing out,” said Ash­lee Ane, a team­mate of Kon­rad’s on the bas­ket­ball and lacrosse teams. “She loves be­ing a triple-sport ath­lete or more. She’s one of those peo­ple who likes to branch out and get bet­ter at ev­ery­thing.”

Kon­rad had talked about play­ing vol­ley­ball since her fresh­man year, but never pur­sued it.

Then, this fall, girls bas­ket­ball coach Jerry Mike ap­proached her in the weight room.

“He said if I wanted to do it, he was fine with it. It was my se­nior year,” re­called Kon­rad, who went straight to Vik­ing vol­ley­ball coach Ray Sanchez and joined the team.

Kon­rad, who’s 6-foot-1, played mid­dle blocker as Va­len­cia went on to win a co-Foothill League ti­tle, its 14th crown in the last 15 years.

Like with lacrosse, though, the tran­si­tion to a new sport wasn’t seam­less.

“Go­ing from a sport like bas­ket­ball where you know ev­ery­thing and go­ing to some­thing you don’t know is frus­trat­ing at times,” Kon­rad said.

“But in both sports, I had coaches and team­mates who helped me get through it. (Some level of frus­tra­tion) is al­ways go­ing to hap­pen when you’re play­ing dif­fer­ent sports. I’m al­ways up for the chal­lenge.”

As she was in bas­ket­ball, where Kon­rad was al­ready the reign­ing Foothill League and All-Santa Clarita Val­ley Player of the Year. Ex­pec­ta­tions were high en­ter­ing 2016-17, as three other four-year var­sity play­ers joined her in the start­ing lineup.

All was well un­til Feb. 3 when Canyon High outscored Va­len­cia by 20 in the sec­ond half to be­come the first Foothill League team to knock off the Vik­ings at Va­len­cia since 2013.

“It was heart­break­ing,” Kon­rad said. “It was like, an­gry. We were de­ter­mined. No one was sad. It hap­pens. You can’t win ev­ery game. We came back more de­ter­mined, more mo­ti­vated. Ob­vi­ously, it showed.

“You win some, lose some. But we wouldn’t let that de­ter­mine rest of the sea­son.”

Kon­rad cer­tainly wasn’t go­ing to let it.

She scored 39 points a week later against Hart, then av­er­aged 25.2 points through the CIF-South­ern Sec­tion Divi­sion 1AA play­offs, cap­ping the run with a game-high 23 in a five-point win over ri­val Canyon in the fi­nal.

Kon­rad was named the D1AA Player of the Year. She av­er­aged 21.1 points, 11.3 re­bounds, 3.4 as­sists, three steals and a block per game for the year.

She ended her ca­reer with a pro­gram-best 1,897 points.

Mike called her the great­est high school girls bas­ket­ball player to come out of the Santa Clarita Val­ley.

“She does it all, all the time,” he said. A true state­ment – in more ways than one.

“I’m al­ways busy,” Kon­rad said. “I don’t want to not be do­ing any­thing.” So, it was on to lacrosse. Kon­rad, a mid­fielder who Va­len­ci­aVik­ cred­ited with 28 goals this spring, used it as an op­por­tu­nity to im­prove her bas­ket­ball game: fine-tun­ing her piv­ots and screen-set­ting.

She also said that tak­ing on the chal­lenge of two new sports helped pre­pare her to play bas­ket­ball at UC Davis next year.

“All three sports had dif­fer­ent men­tal and phys­i­cal as­pects,” she said. “Try­ing new things gives me a bet­ter (men­tal edge).”

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