One last swing for star seniors

Teammates, rivals get together for Optimist All-Star Game
By: Todd Mordhorst, Gold Country News Service Journal Sports Editor
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GRANITE BAY — Colleen Stafford and Kelsey Lardner embarked on their volleyball careers in the small gymnasium at Granite Bay High some 10 years ago. After garnering many accolades and racking up two Pioneer Valley League titles together, the Placer High seniors are enjoying one last run together. They’re a part of the North team for next week’s Sacramento Optimist All-Star Game. “We started out playing together in this gym, so it’s fun to be back here,” Lardner said. “We started together and we’re ending together.” In truth, both players expect to play college volleyball. Lardner has committed to Dominican University. Stafford, who transferred to Placer from Granite Bay prior to her junior year, isn’t sure where she will go to school next year. But she knows volleyball will be a part of her future. “I love volleyball,” Stafford said. “I want to keep playing.” Del Oro senior Kate Kessler and Colfax’s Cassandra Campbell are also on the North squad, which will face a team made up of the top talent from the South Sacramento area at Capital Christian on June 4. Kessler was a key player for the young Golden Eagles last season as they took second place in the Sierra Foothill League. The Newcastle resident will play at Cal State Monterey Bay next fall. Campbell was a three-sport star for the Falcons, earning all-PVL honors in all three. She will play volleyball at Sierra next year. Kessler was diving for digs and Lardner was scrambling all over the court in practice Tuesday, setting up Campbell for some impressive kills. It was a strange sight for players that were fierce rivals last fall. Colfax handed Placer its lone PVL loss, though the Hillgals recovered to win the league title. “We’ve all competed against each other and we know each other,” Stafford said. “So it’s fun to play on the same team with all these great players.” Lardner said many of the girls on the North team have played club volleyball together for much of their careers. “It’s nice to get a chance to play with them again,” she said. Granite Bay coach Jamie Ingram got the nod to coach the North all-stars and she has plenty of talent at her disposal. Ever player on the roster will play at the college level next year, including East Nicolaus’ Stephanie Hagins and Oakmont’s Maddie Lozano, who are headed to Pac-10 Conference schools. “They’re all talented, athletic girls and this is their last hurrah,” Ingram said. “I look at it as a time for them to have fun and enjoy the experience.”