It's been said that in life, you have to experience some lows before you can truly appreciate the highs.
Pleasant Grove outside hitter Danica Mendivil has been there, done that. She had to sit out virtually her entire sophomore season recovering from the kind of injury that ends athletic careers for some.
She came back strong the next year and her team had great success -- right up until the Vikings lost to Lone Peak in a classic title clash that left Mendivil hungry for more.
Realizing that all the wishing in the world would not bring her or her teammates the trophy they all wanted, Mendivil went to work, and inspired her fellows to do the same.
For her outstanding accomplishments as a player and her undisputed leadership of a star-laden squad, Mendivil is being recognized as the All-Valley Player of the Year for volleyball.
On a team loaded with college-bound talent, Mendivil still stood out. Possessing a ferocious swing and equally comfortable going to the ground to save or pass the ball, she notched 367 kills and 303 digs this year, and also had 13 solo blocks.
Any time she was interviewed during the season, Pleasant Grove coach Jamie Schapper's eyes would light up whenever she was asked about her 6-foot-2 senior leader.
"She's just tough," the coach said. "When we have to have her, she comes through for us. She set a great example for the rest of the girls with how hard she worked, both in practice and during games. She's a dynamic player who had an impact in every match."
Not bad for a girl who never even wanted to try volleyball.
Mendivil's mother signed her up for the sport when she was in fourth grade, despite her protests.
"I didn't want to play, but my sister was in it so my mom put me there. It didn't take very long before I found out I wasn't too bad and it was a lot of fun," she said.
Even at that age, Mendivil was taller than everyone else, so she played middle blocker.
"I was the only one at the net sometimes," she explained. "When I got a big kill or made a dig, it got me excited and I wanted to keep playing.
"I like hitting, but I especially love defense. I like the competitiveness of volleyball played at a high level. There's no physical contact, but I like the feeling of crushing the ball and stopping the other team."
The first two squads she played on were more about having fun and learning the game, but she reached a point when she knew she needed more of a challenge if she was going to get better.
Though years younger, she made the High Country 18 team and got the opportunity to compete at the Junior Olympics.
When she completed her junior-year prep season, Mendivil moved to Minnesota for six months and competed with the Northern Lights club team.
They played in the Junior Olympics in Miami last summer and placed second in the open division.
"That was so much fun, and way exciting," Mendivil said. "It also helped me progress in my skills."
She returned to Utah in July and immediately began working out with her Viking teammates in preparation for the season.
Now that she's been able to add her coveted state title to her resume, Mendivil is looking forward to the next stage in her career as she prepares to join the program at Arizona State.
She had choices -- the likes of BYU, USU, St. Mary's, Pepperdine and Colorado State showed interest -- but Mendivil said her decision came down to coaching.
"I liked all the places I considered, but I decided I wanted to play for Jason Watson," she said.
Watson was formerly at BYU, which is how Mendivil met him, but he's now at ASU.
Mendivil will be taking her high hopes and expectations with her to Tempe.
"Of course I want to play and start eventually, but mainly I want to go out there, work hard and be able to contribute to the team and the program. I want to help them get better," she said.
History would suggest she'll be able to do exactly that.
• Beky Beaton can be reached at email@example.com.
2009 Volleyball All-Valley Team
• Utah Valley Player of the Year: Danica Mendivil, Sr. OH, Pleasant Grove
Did it all for the Vikings this season on both sides of the ball; now moves on to Arizona State.
• Offensive MVP: Erin Redd, Sr. OH, Spanish Fork
Accurate at the net and deadly from the line, she hit .410 and notched 54 aces and 1.5 digs per set this year. Redd has signed with the University of Utah.
• Defensive MVP: Aly White, Sr. DS, Lehi
One of the best in the state at her position, she dug balls that looked impossible to get and also served a high percentage of aces.
• Coach of the year: Jamie Schapper, Pleasant Grove
A former state champion herself, Schapper used her experiences to help lead her team to the title.
Ashlan Rogers, Jr. OH, Lone Peak: Was the top Knight hitter this year with 323 kills and also had 266 digs and 41 aces.
Chelsey Schofield, Sr. OH, Mountain View: Great finisher anchored the Bruin front line.
Makenzie Moea'i, Sr. OH, American Fork: Heading to SLCC after posting 342 kills, 50 aces and 154 digs with 474 completed passes in 2009.
Kimberly Dahl, Jr. MB, Pleasant Grove: Versatile hitter ended the season with 249 kills and 46 digs.
Kylie Schofield, Sr. MB, Spanish Fork: Other half of the power-hitting Don duo will take her game to SUU.
Jennifer Hamson, Sr. RS, Pleasant Grove: BYU-bound senior was a towering presence at the net.
Cami Richan, Sr. RS, Lone Peak: Key front-line player had 215 kills, 32.5 blocks and 187 digs this season.
Elle Brainard, Jr. RS, Westlake: Led her team to the playoffs in the school's first campaign.
Kemi McFarland, Sr. S, Pleasant Grove: Good passer also contributed as a hitter and defender.
Jenna Scott, Sr. S, Springville: Her solid play led the Red Devils through a successful season.
ALL-VALLEY HONORABLE MENTION
American Fork: Jessica Jardine, Hayley Su'a-Filo
Lehi: Miranda Parkinson, BreElle Bailey, Mikayla Dunford, Madi Greenwood, Katy Ford
Lone Peak: Whitney Johnson, Chloe Jarema, Coralie Jarema, Whitney Ashton
Maple Mountain: Dani Esplin, Manuela Santos
Mountain View: Rachel Steele, Heather Glassford
Orem: Hannah Robison, Kaysie Taylor
Payson: Erica Furiman, Heather Finch, Heather Lyman
Pleasant Grove: Rae Mulitalo, McKell Staheli, Melissa Rider, Heidi Lloyd
Provo: Anna Bigler, Camille Nelson, Kelci Koop, Janessa Cherry
Salem Hills: Lyndi Sorensen, Kylie Kolibar
Spanish Fork: Danee Merrill, Rachelle Remund
Springville: Turia Andrus, Kristin Clark, Shea Aldana, Stephanie Schultz, Lakin Gleave
Timpanogos: Melanie Weitzeil
Timpview: Brianna Van, Maddie Huddleston
Westlake: Sophia Provencal