As far as Presentation (San Jose, Calif.)
girls volleyball coach Sue Dvorak is concerned, Emily Sklar
is the San Francisco Bay Area's best prep volleyball player since Jennifer Joines.
That's high praise.
After graduating from Presentation in 2000, Joines went on to become a four-time, first-team All-American at the University of the Pacific and was part of the United States' silver medal indoor team at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Dvorak's praise of Sklar certainly seems deserving. The senior outside hitter has led Presentation to a 34-1 record headed into tonight's Central Coast Section Division II semifinal bracket
matchup against Los Gatos and has a scholarship to Duke locked up.
"Emily is just an amazing athlete," Dvorak said. "She's super coachable, she's 6-foot-2 … other teams try to double- or triple-block her every game."
If it weren't for somewhat of a chance encounter in the halls at Presentation on the first day of her freshman year, Sklar might not have given volleyball a try. Growing up, she'd been a soccer player and aside from some limited middle school experience, volleyball was essentially a foreign concept.
"I saw our old A.D. (Ryan Cooling) the first day and he told me I should come out to tryouts," Sklar said. "I couldn't come that day, but I showed up the last day."
The impromptu decision turned into a life-changing one.
Sklar was placed on the freshman team, but Dvorak, who was the junior varsity coach at the time, said it was obvious from the outset she was destined to be a special player.
"I was thinking, ‘Great, I'll get to work with her as a sophomore on J.V.,' but then she skipped J.V. the next year," Dvorak said.
Sklar also began playing club volleyball, which sped up her development. It didn't take long before she was among the nation's most dominant players at her age. Even now, Dvorak said the sky's the limit.
"She's still so volleyball young," Dvorak said. "I'm not even sure what she's capable of doing because her potential in through the roof."
Presentation is ranked No. 11 in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 National Volleyball Rankings presented by the Army National Guard
and is the state's top-ranked Division II team. With those credentials, a state title is realistic goal — if not the expectation — but Sklar said it's too early to start thinking in those terms.
"Our main goal is to keep getting better and doing better," she said. "Of course everyone wants to win CCS and win state."
The Panthers fell in the CCS and NorCal Division II finals last year to St. Francis, which went on to beat Troy in the state championship. Presentation has beaten St. Francis four times this year, but there is potential for more revenge on Saturday with both teams a win away from the CCS finals. If Presentation beats Los Gatos, it is assured a berth in the state tournament and a CCS title would likely result in Northern California's No. 1 seed.
A state championship would be a fitting end to Sklar's high school career and an impressive start for Dvorak, who is in her first year coaching the school's varsity team.
"I think she's done a really great job," Sklar said. "She really helped us not stress out and stay positive all year."
Away from the court, Dvorak said Sklar is a "funny, academically focused girl."
Academics played a major role her college decision and after considering Stanford, Cal and UCLA, she decided the experience of life on the East Coast at Duke was something she didn't want to pass up.
"It's a completely different environment and I wanted to experience something new," she said.
Kind of like when she decided to tryout for freshman volleyball.