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Delaney Knudsen: Valencia’s handy girl

Indoor, outdoor, hitter or setter, Delaney Knudsen is a premier player

Posted: September 27, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: September 27, 2012 1:55 a.m.
In July, Valencia senior Delaney Knudsen made a verbal commitment to play beach volleyball at Pepperdine University. In July, Valencia senior Delaney Knudsen made a verbal commitment to play beach volleyball at Pepperdine University.
In July, Valencia senior Delaney Knudsen made a verbal commitment to play beach volleyball at Pepperdine University.

It wasn’t that long ago you could have made the statement: Delaney Knudsen wouldn’t know volleyball if it her in the face.

Turns out, it literally did.

Knudsen, a Valencia senior, was hit it the head by a volleyball as a toddler, her dad, Mark recalls.

It was at a UCLA men’s volleyball match in the late 1990s while Mark was an assistant coach for the team, and it was one of Delaney’s first introductions to the sport, and one of many UCLA and Valencia High matches she’d attend while growing up.

Attending matches became a typical family activity, even after Mark later took over as Valencia’s boys volleyball head coach for nine seasons.

Though she didn’t start playing the game until junior high school, Delaney has practically been around the game her whole life.

And she loves it now more than ever.

“I feel like I picked up a lot from watching the game, from being around it and from listening to everything my dad talked about when he was coaching,” says Delaney, a returning All-Santa Clarita Valley first-teamer. “He has a really great mentality.”

And with everything she learned about the sport over the years, the senior outside hitter/setter has begun to carve out her own niche in volleyball.

She’s doing things in somewhat unconventional, but very effective ways in order to maximize her level of play and her exposure.

This past July, she became Valencia High’s first-ever recipient of a beach volleyball scholarship offer when she verbally committed to Pepperdine University.

She now sets the precedent for players around the Santa Clarita Valley as well as her younger siblings, including teammate and sophomore Lindsey Knudsen.

“She set the bar pretty high,” says Mark Knudsen, who is an assistant coach for his daughters’ team. “It’s a pretty cool thing she gets offered and she’s pretty excited about it. Even Delaney didn’t necessarily care (where she went to college). She didn’t have a specific school in mind. She just wanted to play for a good school and continue doing what she loved.”

Delaney accepted the offer on the spot just days before Valencia teammate Sierra Sanchez accepted her own beach volleyball scholarship offer to Florida State.

It was Delaney who first talked Sanchez into playing the beach game the summer before ninth grade.

They both say playing the two-on-two version in the sand has helped them become more well-rounded players at the traditional six-on-six indoor game.

“It forces you to get touches and play every ball and it’s just a really good overall workout for you,” Sanchez said.

Delaney and Sanchez teamed up as Valencia’s top pairing this past spring as the team won the eight-team Southern Pacific Girls Interscholastic Beach Volleyball League in its first year of existence.

Delaney has also competed in national tournaments for USA Junior High Performance teams in the summers between the fall indoor seasons.

It’s no surprise how she’s risen to this level and how she’s been able to handle an unusual combination of positions on the court.

“It’s difficult to be an outside hitter on a high-level team and it’s even more difficult to be a setter on a high-level team,” says Valencia head coach Ray Sanchez. “It’s almost unheard of to be both.”

Delaney spent the first part of last season as a part-time setter, where she had 166 assists, before switching back to full-time hitter.

She finished with a team-high 254 kills in 2011 and she’s well on her way to topping that mark with 121 kills so far in 12 matches this season.

“I don’t know that I’ve gotten that much better physically,” Delaney says. “I feel like the biggest improvement is the mental improvement. I’m able to make better choices.”

Her playing career has been a constant upward progression ever since she first stepped on the court in varsity competition as a sophomore.

A fellow third-year varsity player can attest to her advancement, which can partly be contributed to her unbridled passion.

“Anywhere you put Delaney, she wants to be the best,” Sierra says. “Being second best, being one of the best, it’s not good enough for Delaney.”

For as long as she’s been around the game, Delaney plays with the same amount of thrill as if she’s playing ball on the beach with friends and family.

With the beach game in future at Pepperdine, this could be her last chance to enjoy a season of indoor volleyball.
Knowing her, she’ll make it count.


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