Prep Volleyball

Tipton volleyball star Sommer Daniel: Always a step ahead

Reigning 3A player of the year will cap Tipton career this fall, then leave for Utah in the winter

Tipton's Sommer Daniel passes the ball during a Class 3A state-semifinal win over Mount Vernon last season. Daniel is the reigning 3A state player of the year. (The Gazette)
Tipton's Sommer Daniel passes the ball during a Class 3A state-semifinal win over Mount Vernon last season. Daniel is the reigning 3A state player of the year. (The Gazette)

TIPTON — Sommer Daniel, it seems, is always a step ahead.

For instance, check out her target date of graduation.

“Sure, I’m going to miss it here,” said Daniel, a senior at Tipton High School who will graduate in the winter, then depart for the University of Utah for the spring semester. “But I made the decision to do this during my junior year, and I’m ready to start training for the next thing.”

See? A step ahead.

It applies on the volleyball court, too. At age 5, Daniel started bopping a ball around her house. By age 8, she announced her plan to play in college.

Somewhere in between, she began setting against a wall, 100 times in a row. Her parents made her move away from her popular spot, in fear she would wear the paint off the wall.

The result is a magical set of hands and unique instinct, a combination that enabled her to earn Class 3A state player of the year honors last season after leading the Tigers to a runner-up finish at the state tournament.

“Her volleyball IQ is very high. She sees what’s going to happen before it happens,” Tipton Coach Amy Calonder said. “I think the fact that she plays doubles in sand helps tremendously.

“She came into the program with that instinct. She sees the game, she reads the game, she knows the game.”

And she leads. That’s a role she’ll call on even more this fall, because the Tigers lost a strong senior class after last year’s 39-4 campaign, best in school history.

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“A hundred percent of the time, she’s pushing us,” classmate Kamryn Chapman said. “We get into the huddle and wait for her to say something that will help.”

“One thing I can really do is help engage the girls and help them grow,” Daniel said.

That’s one thing. Certainly not the only thing.

For the past three seasons at Tipton, Daniel has split time between setting and hitting. Last season, she averaged 4.25 kills, 4.46 assists and 3.03 digs per set, and notched a .303 kill efficiency.

“I know she’s going to college to set, but for us, we need her to hit, too,” Calonder said.

Amanda Smith shared setting duties with Daniel last year, enabling both to hit part-time. Smith has graduated, and Alex Hoffman appears to be the front-runner at that position this season.

“She’s working so hard,” Daniel said. “Each season, you start over. Yeah, we lost a lot, but we have a lot of people competing and that will make us better.

“One cool thing, a lot of people are looking at us as underdogs again, and I’m OK with that.”

Daniel does have other interests. She likes to paint, and lit up when she mentioned her fishing conquests. She’s a competent saxophone player, but admitted, “I can’t sing.”

Mostly, though, she’s at home in the gym.

“I’ve never had a time I didn’t want to be there,” she said.

“Never.”

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Daniel is well-spoken, competitive — “sometimes, a little too competitive,” she said — and supremely confident. At least one area coach took exception to her comment last November upon learning of her player of the year selection (“This is a huge honor, and honestly, I think I deserve it.”)

Nine months later, she stands by it.

“I’m a very confident person,” Daniel said. “My body gets nervous sometimes, but my mind doesn’t. People need to be confident in themselves, and confidence has gotten me where I am.”

l Comments: (319) 368-8857; jeff.linder@thegazette.com

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