Melissa Daniel played volleyball and softball with distinction for Burbank High, and was equally adept in the classroom.
Daniel, who graduated with a weighted 4.81 grade point average and second in her class, is headed to Stanford University where she will play beach volleyball.
This season, Daniel, whose brother Matt graduated from Stanford this year, and whose sister Denise attends UC Berkeley, only played volleyball and skipped softball.
“Not playing softball was definitely an extremely difficult decision that needed a lot of thought,’’ said Daniel, a Pacific League first team pick as a sophomore and senior in volleyball and a second team selection as a junior. “Ultimately I wanted to focus on my seven advanced placement classes that conflicted with practices and games while also being able to focus on club beach volleyball since I was hoping to continue my beach volleyball career in college.’’
Daniel, who will major in human biology and is a two-time Most Valuable Player in volleyball as a sophomore and a senior, is a quick study and glad she played sports.
“Athletics have taught me how to be an active leader, which is such an important skill for life,’’ she said. “Being on a team and training hard has also taught me discipline, which I have carried over to my academic career.’’
Of course, certain games and matches stand out. “The Burroughs game my junior year was a highlight,’’ Daniel said. “With bases loaded and two outs, I was able to hit a three-run double, which gave us a 5-2 win.’’
Daniel, who played setter as a freshman and sophomore and outside hitter as a junior and senior, went on: “For volleyball, it would probably be the Pasadena game where I reached the most kills in a single match (35) in school history or Crescenta Valley where I was able to come back during the fifth set after not being on my ‘A’ game and lead the team to a win.’’
If Daniel, who set the school-record with better than 240 kills in a season as a senior, had to choose between softball and volleyball, would she be able to?
“I would probably have to say volleyball,’’ she said. “Ironically, I hated volleyball growing up and wanted to quit, but came to love it as I grew up. I love volleyball because it’s a fast-paced game where strategy is key to being successful, especially when playing beach volleyball. Although indoor volleyball and beach volleyball are alike, the mindset while playing each of them are so different.’’
Daniel, who played shortstop and batted .368 with 19 runs batted in, 19 runs scored and two home runs as a junior, said facing rival Burroughs was special.
“Playing Burroughs every year in both sports is definitely such a unique experience that is thrilling for all athletes,’’ she said. “However sometimes the hype could be overwhelming for other athletes and I, and we would just have to remember it’s just another game and just another opponent.’’
Rick Assad has written about sports for the Pasadena Star-News and Los Angeles Times. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.