An even bigger problem for foes
By JOHN C. COTEY
© St. Petersburg Times,
The highest flying of last year's frontline powerhouses, River Ridge's Ali Bigger came into her own and settled nicely into her role as shining star.
This year, she might want to keep a fire extinguisher near.
"I think she's probably going to be the player of the year," said Land O'Lakes coach Brian Kachurak, an assistant at River Ridge the past two seasons. "She should be on fire."
Can things burn at that altitude? If Bigger was a big leaper last year, she is even, well, bigger this year. Though she is just 5 feet 7, most coaches think she will be the county's toughest player to stop. She has drawn comparisons to former River Ridge Player of the Year Ashlea Thomas and has shown improvement every year.
If there was a weakness in her game last year, it was choosing to hit around blocks instead of through them, and her consistency wavered at times.
"She has definitely gotten more consistent," coach Heidi Castelamare said. "She has just been unbelievable. I suspect she will be one of the most dominant players this year."
Consistency, beating the blocks and leadership are all things Castelamare looks for from her top hitter. Last year, Bigger led the team with 155 kills, second in the county. Castelamare has grander expectations this year.
But when discussing Bigger's skills, the conversation always turns back to her leaping, which in turn helps account for a wicked arm swing and vicious kills, which will also make her the most exciting player to watch.
"She's really killing the ball, and on her approach her head is over the net," Castelamare said. "She is jumping crazy and swinging hard; I mean, really hard. I told her she was going to hurt somebody, and she said "cool'. She's very quiet and mild-mannered and meek, but...."
Setter Dawn Conner, who had 366 assists last year, plans on getting at least that many again. To that end, she plans on feeding the ball to Bigger. The two worked well together last season, and played club volleyball together, and there is little question who Conner will look to at crunch time.
"I'm very excited to be working with her," Conner said. "She's my favorite. That and you can trust her. She's going to awesome."
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