SDA standout Colla readies for bigger role amid tough challenges


Sarah Colla’s recipe for success isn’t that complicated.

She turns to the tried and true formula that great athletes have ascribed to for generations, long before tech gadgets, strange diets and muscle confusion became staples of the sports development vernacular.

“Just the hard work and dedication that I put into playing volleyball,” said the San Dieguito Academy standout. “All the work and time that I put in makes me the player that I am.”

It seems to be working.

As a sophomore last season Colla was named the Avocado League East’s Player of the Year after leading the Mustangs to one of the best seasons in school history, which included winning a league championship with a 9-1 record. They were 25-8 overall for the season.

“She’s just a great player on and off the court, and a great player to coach,” said Mustangs coach David Savage.

Colla wasn’t expected to be a vocal leader for SDA as a sophomore last season. She led by example though.

“She was already a leader on the court through her actions,” Savage said.

But this season, she’ll be counted on to take a bigger role in the leadership department. The Mustangs graduated six seniors, including co-captains Megan Scherer and Lindsey King.

It won’t be easy.

SDA has been moved from the Avocado League East to the much tougher Avocado League West, which includes some of the best programs in the county, including Torrey Pines, Canyon Crest Academy and La Costa Canyon.

The Mustangs will compete with teams loaded with elite-level club players who play year round. Not everyone at the academically-focussed SDA plays year round at that level.

“I know a lot of the players and all of these teams are going to be extremely good,” she said.

But Colla isn’t intimidated.

“I’m actually looking forward to it,” she said.

And all indications are that Colla is up for the challenge.

“This is going to be the year she’s going to step into that leadership role and I think she’ll handle it really well,” Savage said.

Savage’s view of the Mustangs’ talented outside hitter is shaped by watching her handle every challenge she’s faced.

Colla made the varsity team as a freshman and emerged as an impact player by the end of that season according to Savage, who coached against her when he was at Mission Hills High two years ago.

“I knew we were in trouble,” Savage said of facing Colla as an opponent.

The teams met twice and, after experiencing a 3-2 loss to Mission Hills in the first match, Colla helped SDA exact a measure of revenge against the Grizzlies in a 3-0 victory later in the season.

Colla is an outstanding athlete with great instincts and excellent aptitude, who Savage said plays bigger than her 5-foot-10 frame.

Colla plays on the prestigious WAVE club team.

“She’s extremely athletic, very, very physical and very hard working,” Savage said.

Colla credits a lot of her development, on and off the court, to the mentorship of her older sister, Amanda Colla, a former SDA standout who plays libero at Division-II UC San Diego. Amanda Colla, who’ll be a junior this year, was named the Avocado League East Player of the Year in 2013.

“I’ve always watched my sister when she played volleyball in high school and club,” Sarah Colla said, “The way she presents herself on the court, I’ve always tried to take after her and play the way she did.”

Colla attends most of her sister’s home matches at UCSD and continues to seek her counsel.

She cites among her goals breaking her sister’s school record for career points at SDA.

Colla led the team last season with 409 kills and was among its leaders in most significant statistical categories. She was second on the Mustangs with 69 service aces, tied for second with 30 blocks and third with 269 digs.

Colla is a Division-I prospect and wants to play collegiately, Savage said. She has already visited several four-year schools.

Colla credits Savage and the new coaching staff he brought in last season with helping turn a very good SDA team to an even better one. The Mustangs finished in a two-way tie for second place in league with a 7-3 record her freshman year. They were 22-13 overall for the season.

“They pushed us extremely hard and they got us working as a team,” she said.

Colla won’t have to carry the entire leadership role on her shoulders.

Libero Kiani Kerstetter is among four incoming seniors who’ll be counted on to help the Mustangs confront formidable challenges. Kerstetter is among the team’s most inspirational leaders, Colla said.

“She’s very quiet on the court, very steady and calm, I definitely look up to her,” Colla said. “Seeing how hard she works makes everyone want to work harder.”