During a practice drill last week, Timberline High volleyball coach Carol Klein told her players whichever team won the next point wouldn’t have to run a set of lines.
As a savvy senior setter, Abbey Schwager approached a teammate’s pass as if she were about to set, then dumped the ball over the net for a kill on an unsuspecting defense.
The five other players on Schwager’s side of the net ran in to celebrate.
“If we have to run a set of lines, I am going to take this into my control. I’m not going to put it against my team if I screw up, but if I can put this down, then we don’t have to run a set of lines,” Schwager said. “Most of the time, my dumps go down if we’re not playing a super defensive team. And my team, everyone knows I dump a lot, so 90 percent of the time they get them up. But I was just like, ‘I don’t want to run these lines, and I’m going to end it right here.’ ”
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Schwager has never been one to defer.
When she first made varsity as a sophomore, there were four setters on the Wolves’ roster and no guarantee of playing time.
“I was thinking about going to other schools, but then I just decided that it would probably be better to stay here,” Schwager said. “It’s really taught me that if you want something, you have to work for it.”
As a junior, Schwager began the season sharing time with a senior before earning the starting job outright.
This season, she’s the undisputed floor general.
“Abbey is intensely competitive. It’s probably one of her best qualities,” Klein said. “She just refuses to lose. It doesn’t matter if it’s practice, games, she is just driven to win.”
You’re the playmaker on the court. It’s just like in football, you’re the quarterback or the captain on a basketball team who’s making the plays.
Abbey Schwager, Timberline senior, on the role of a setter in volleyball
Schwager’s take-charge attitude runs in the family. Her father, Paul Schwager, coached for 17 years at Eagle High, winning five state championships and nine district titles.
“He’s taught me that you have to love the sport. It’s not just something that you should play because it’s something you’re good at,” Abbey said. “You need to love it. He’s taught me that no matter if someone is better than you, if you work hard enough, you can achieve and beat them if you set your mind to it.”
Paul resigned in 2012 to watch Abbey and younger sister Ali play volleyball.
“I couldn’t see the point of coaching against my own daughter. That just was not something that I wanted to do,” Schwager said. “I spent a large part of my life helping other people’s daughters get better. I wanted to really spend the last part of Abbey’s (high school) career hopefully watching her do well and cheering her on, kind of like she sat and cheered my teams on.”
Both Schwager children tagged along with their dad during his time at Eagle, and Abbey says it cemented her love for the sport.
“We got to sit on the bench. I always wanted to be like them,” Abbey said. “I wanted to make my dad proud of me being a setter for any team I played.”
Abbey has given the elder Schwager plenty of reasons to smile.
The Wolves won a 5A District Three championship last season and advanced to state as the conference’s top seed. After winning their opener against Eagle, the Wolves lost two in a row and were eliminated one match shy of the fourth-place game.
This season, the Wolves are unbeaten in the 5A Southern Idaho Conference, and Abbey says they are focused on becoming the first Boise School District team to win a state volleyball title.
“Our practices are super intense. We go for everything,” Schwager said. “We work our butts off. Coach Klein and (assistant) Mandy (Shannon) have really taught us that if you want it, you have to work your butts off for it.”