When Sami Knight made her first big splash as a sophomore on Sandburg’s varsity in 2012, it would have been a lot less painful if there had been some water.
The Eagles were playing Lincoln-Way East in a match at the Rich East Invitational when Knight turned from setter to super-defender, extending her arms and flying through the air to go after the ball.
When she landed, it was on her face.
“Square into the floor,” Knight remembered with a chuckle. “I got a bloody nose and, sorry to make this graphic, but it came out of my mouth and everything.
She did, however, make the dig, and incredibly, got up, kept playing and made a pass. It wasn’t until an official noticed her bleeding that play was stopped.
Knight was tended to on the bench during a timeout, then asked to go back in.
“I know, that’s kind of insane, but I really wanted to continue playing,” Knight said.
Knight drove many an opponent crazy last season, compiling 451 assists and mixing up her feeds to the senior power-hitting trio of Dakota Hampton, Paige Bendell and Kristy Theisen as the Eagles won 29 matches.
This season, as a junior, Knight has a new group of hitters to work with, and has led Sandburg to a 6-3 record. She went into the week with 120 assists and 65 digs.
In the Eagles’ latest win, a 25-12, 25-10 victory Thursday over Andrew, Knight had 14 assists and nine digs. She also surprised the Thunderbolts with three misdirection tips for kill.
There were no bloody noses. She’s got the diving thing down much better now.
Her leadership qualities?
“She allows the seniors to have the biggest voice on the team,” Eagles coach David Vales said. “That being said, her leadership comes in the form of intensity and focus on the court.
“Sami has a competitiveness that is not matched by anyone in our program. She’s a perfectionist when it comes to setting, and I believe it motivates others to self-evaluate to become better players.”
Knight was a multisport athlete in grammar school, her most talent materializing early on in gymnastics, in which she was a level 8 vaulter at Gym-Kinetics.
Volleyball won out by the time she entered Sandburg.
“I love the suspense when the games get close,” she said. “Even when I’m just helping my team, it’s fun to be a leader, instead of doing gymnastics which is an individual sport.
“I’ve just been trying to lead by example and helping everyone get better. We’re only as [strong] as our weakest link. If anybody has a problem, I usually have them come to me and we can stay after practice and work on it.”