Optimist All Star
Capital Christian High
June 5, 2014
Boys @ 5 p.m.
Girls @ 7 p.m.
Andrea Barnes graduated last Thursday evening from Union Mine but as a committed Diamondback there’s just one more thing she has to do.
Tomorrow at Capital Christian High in Sacramento, Barnes dons school colors one last time to play for the South Optimist All Stars in the annual volleyball exhibition pitting seniors against seniors. It’s a milestone she doesn’t take lightly.
“I’m honored … it’s such a personal accomplishment for me and my family being from El Dorado County … no one hears about El Dorado County,” Barnes said.
They did back in 2011 in a very, very big way.
That year, an underdog Union Mine squad stunned the California prep volleyball scene when it captured the Division IV state title, dethroning three-time defending champion La Jolla in four sets to become the first-ever county high school team to do so.
Playing alongside Mikayla Tucker, Maddie Berridge, Jacqueline Swarbrick, Lea Howton, Sarah Phillis, Malia Gonzales and Jordan Buxton, Barnes, a sophomore then, was an integral part of that unit and a starter. The feat is something she often reflects back on.
“As a senior looking back it’s pretty amazing what we accomplished,” Barnes said. “I basically think about it every day … well no … once a month.”
She was certainly reminded of it each time in the D’backs’ gym as it’s hard to miss the team photo that graces the wall just left of the entrance to the girls locker room — something she can be proud of each time she returns to her alma mater.
That 2011 team wasn’t the tallest, fiercest or most talented but it was a cohesive, scrappy, defensive-oriented group of girls that once the playoffs rolled around became better as they went. Swinging left-handed, Barnes provided a unique look opposing teams had to deal with.
“Our team defense is what kept us alive,” Barnes said. “We all participated and were a piece that fit the puzzle. Everything had to be there … communication … everything.”
The run-up to facing La Jolla featured some of the best NorCal volleyball action ever seen in the county. By virtue of defeating Bear River at UC Davis for the section title, Union Mine earned home court advantage.
After an easy first-round sweep of Yreka in their NorCal opener, the D’back girls outlasted Atherton’s Sacred Heart Prep in five, tense sets. As word spread and fans packed the Snake Pit, Union Mine (32-5) took down heavily favored Soquel 3-1 to advance to the state finals.
It came down to one match. La Jolla, dripping of state-level experience, had every reason to win but soon found what 31 other D’back victims previously had — that Barnes and Co. were the real deal.
“NorCals at home was unbelievable and going to the state finals was a shock because you’d think it’s take a Division I team with big girls (to get there),” Barnes said. “La Jolla was very intimidating. My biggest concern with everyone watching was to not make a mistake. I didn’t want to be the reason we lost.”
She wasn’t. In fact the opposite as Barnes and Union Mine withstood La Jolla’s punches out of the gate to grab the first set. Key to the outcome was an edge-of-the-seat second-set nail biter the D’backs won 29-27 in overtime. After a slight letdown in the third, Union Mine regrouped to win the fourth for the championship trophy.
“It was such an intense match and after we won all the stress was gone,” Barnes said. “Right in that celebratory moment I received so may texts.”
Though Barnes played another two years for the D’backs, Union Mine couldn’t come close to its earlier success.
“We tried to make that same connection but it was never the same,” Barnes said. “But … it helped me grow into a stronger player and be a leader and not just the baby anymore.”
With her D’back career officially over after tomorrow, Barnes takes her game to Sonoma State.
“It’s always been one of my top choices and no doubt where I want to be the next four years,” Barnes said.