Sandburg’s success stems from Sami Knight

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In some ways, fear motivated Sandburg’s Sami Knight to become one of the best setters in the state.

“I was so nervous when I was brought up to the varsity as a freshman,” Knight said. “Everyone knew who Dakota (Hampton) was. It was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I don’t want to mess up. I don’t want to get her mad,’ although Dakota had my back. She stood up for me a lot.

“I was scared of coach (David) Vales, too. He knows that now. Freshman year, he was a lot different. He was super serious. Now he’s a little more laid back. He still tells you how it is. He tells me exactly how it is. If I set bad, he says, ‘That was awful,’ and I’m like, ‘OK, thanks.’”

Knight rarely sets a bad ball, however. Her ability to get the ball to where it needs to be and the intensity she brings to the court have led Sandburg to three regional championships and two sectional finals during her career.

Last weekend, Knight had 26 assists as the Eagles clipped Lincoln-Way North 25-18, 26-24 to win the Plainfield North invite.

“She’s intense,” Vales said. “But she knows how to do it in a positive manner. She’ll be the first one to help you up and pat you on the back. If she doesn’t get a good pass, she doesn’t stare them down and scream. She’s able to coax them. She has that kind of personality.

“She also knows where to get the ball. It doesn’t matter where she is, she’ll get the ball to where she needs to get it for the hitters. She makes adjustments well. She has three middles who all hit somewhere different, and she can set all three of them.”

Sometimes, getting the ball to the right place takes a little creativity.

“Everyone still talks about the sectional semifinal against Marist last year,” Knight said. “I kicked the ball up twice in the match. I knew I couldn’t reach it if I dove for it. The quickest thing to do was to put my foot out. I got the ball up and we won the point both times. I’ll never forget that.”

Next year, Knight will take her multiple talents to Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville.

“It’s three hours away, that’s one thing I wanted,” she said. “The team is just how I am, very talkative, very loud. They’re super funny, too. The school has a good education program, and it’s modern. I don’t like castle schools, old schools with vines growing on the buildings.”

Knight knows what she wants in a college. She also knows what she wants from herself.

“She wants to get better,” Vales said. “In every practice, in every match, she asks what she can do to get better. When you have a player like that, the sky’s the limit.”

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