Sister sledge – Senior Ali Daley hammers home NU hitting attack
Gary Daley Jr. earned a rep as one of the Sacramento area’s top prep athletes thanks to a deadly shooting eye and golden pitching arm.
The 2003 Nevada Union grad – who in his senior year was tied for fourth in total 3-pointers in the area with 70 – parlayed a solid schoolboy baseball career into a full ride to Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo.
An impressive list of accomplishments, for sure. But just ask him who holds the title of top jock at the old Daley homestead, and he points to his lil’ sis, Ali.
For good reason.
After an injury-shortened freshman season, Ali Daley returned to the volleyball court with a vengeance.
The 6-foot senior outside hitter has recorded more than 1,100 kills en route to consecutive Metro Conference Most Valuable Player awards.
“I’m the first one to admit Ali’s the best athlete in the family,” he said. “She never settled for just being good. She had to be the best.
“She works five days a week at becoming a great all-around volleyball player,” he added. “Now she’s one of the best volleyball players in the nation.”
Daley, who has verbally committed to play for perennial national power Long Beach State, played starring roles as the Miners steamrolled their way to two-straight Sac-Joaquin Section’s Division I titles as well as the school’s first CIF NorCal State championship last season.
NU came up short in its state finals matchup with Los Alamitos, losing in four games.
But Daley, along with a talented core from the 2003 squad, return this season to have another go at the title.
“NU’s always had a good program, but we hadn’t done anything at the state level for a long time. So the last two years have been great,” Ali said. “But to me, it’s been more important than just putting banners on the wall.
“(That success has helped) everyone on the team really believe in themselves. That they can come from a small town and succeed,” she added.
Just as important to Daley is the effect the program’s glory has had on the county’s younger volleyball players.
“When the kids see us (succeed), I think it motivates them more to want to play the sport. I like to see that,” she said.
Just one of the girls
Like Daley – who is currently second in the state in kills with 251 according to MaxPreps.com – any player who has the ability to assert her will on a game is bound to grab the lion’s share of press.
That’s just the way it is. Daley doesn’t have to like it though.
” I read in the newspaper that I had a great game or whatever, and it’s cool. But most of the time I wish there would be more written on the team as a whole. It takes the six people on the court to win a volleyball match,” she said.
“If people look back at this team 10 years from now, I would hope they would say ‘That team had a lot of good players,’ not just focus on me,” she added. “Because it takes everyone (doing their best).”
NU assistant coach Larry Peterson said Daley’s team-first attitude has served her well over the years.
“It was really, really important early on because when she started on the varsity, she was a freshman. And by then she was already (a high-profile player),” he said. “I think that may have been a problem to the older kids if she hadn’t been the way she was.
“Plus, I think she understands volleyball is a team sport, And that she wouldn’t be getting the notoriety she’s been getting if she didn’t have great kids out there passing her the ball,” he added.
As an outside hitter, Daley’s the volleyball equivalent of a scoring guard in basketball or running back in football:
Her job is to put points on the board.
While her kill totals prove she has no trouble in that part of the game, she’s by no means a one-dimensional player.
As a junior, Daley led the team in digs (503), was tied for second in blocks (99) and was third in aces (57).
This season, she’s once again atop the Miners’ stat sheet.
Daley’s 46 aces are good enough for second in the section. She’s fifth in digs at 130 and tops in the state in serve receives at 227.
“She’s tried to improve on every part of her game,” Peterson said. “She’s not just a big hitter. She’s probably our best serve receiver as well as being a very good back row defender.”
NU head coach Bob Rogers said it’s that part of her game – back row play – which keeps her on the court in clutch time.
“I think she’s hurt our opponents just as much from the back row as the front,” Rogers said. “A lot of times when a good player on the opposite team rotates to the back row, you think this is will be a good chance to score some points. But with Ali, it’s just the opposite.”
For as bright as Daley’s future in volleyball is nowadays, there was a time in the not too distant past when she was stuck on the outside, looking in.
It was during a home match her freshman year when a run-in with a teammate at the net cost her big.
“I was going up for a block, and when I came down, I landed on my middle’s foot. I broke my left leg in two spots right above my ankle,” she said. ‘It was painful.”
As much agony as that autumn night was for her, Daley hadn’t seen anything yet.
With a cast up to her hip, she spent the first few months of her six-month rehab stuck in bed.
Weeks turned into months and all Daley, who had to be home-schooled for the first three months after her injury, could do was watch as the volleyball world passed her by.
“I couldn’t do anything. It was extremely aggravating. There were times when I’d get really emotional because I just wanted to go and play,” she said. “But I knew the best thing for me was to stay in bed and let it heal.”
No sooner than the third and final cast came off, Daley was back in action
“I was ready to go. I had no nerves about getting back on the court whatsoever. I was excited to play,” she said.
Not so fast.
The time off had taken its toll on Daley’s fitness and eroded the physical skills she’d worked so hard to build.
“Coming back was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be,” she said. “I thought I was going to be able to go out and jump as high as I used to, It didn’t happen.”
“I was a step behind everyone, but that motivated me,” she said. “That year I worked harder than any other year ever. I had to push really hard. But I’m glad I did.”
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