SAN DIEGO — Sisters Carolyn and Karen Taeatafa were the Sweetwater High School volleyball team last season. They led the team in blocks, kills and leadership.
When coaches throughout San Diego County discussed the top teams last season, the phrase usually began: "The Taeatafa sisters at Sweetwater. . ."
"It was a great combination," Sweetwater Coach Rick Kessler said. "Each always knew she had her sister to rely on. They just naturally banked on each other."
The sisters were the force behind Sweetwater's 33-3 record and its second-place finish among 3-A schools in the San Diego Section.
Karen graduated last June and is playing at Grossmont College, currently the top-rated community college team in the state.
Carolyn was left behind, presumably to carry the load this season as a senior at Sweetwater, which had seven of last year's players graduate.
The adjustment has been tough, but Carolyn, The Times' Player of the Week, has emerged as a leader again. In last Friday's victory over Montgomery, she had 21 kills. She is averaging 19 kills and 5 blocks a game. She also has 30 aces.
"She can do everything," Kessler said. "She is allowed to go after every ball she can get to."
Said Taeatafa: "Last year, I could depend on my sister when I wasn't doing well. This year, I can't really depend on anybody like I did with my sister."
Instead, she turns to the two other returning players, Nina Amos and Dina Hernandez. The three discuss strategy and team problems, Taeatafa said.
With its victories over Southwest and Montgomery last week, Sweetwater clinched the Metro-Mesa League championship. Kessler credits Taeatafa with holding together the relatively young team after a rocky start this year.
"She doesn't play on a real good team, but she does a lot, and a lot is expected of her," Kessler said. "We have struggled at times during the season, and she could have shown her frustration at times, but she didn't."
Taeatafa said the victory over Bonita Vista two weeks ago was the boost Sweetwater needed.
"We were really hyped to beat them," Taeatafa said. "I was happy because before that game, nobody had respect for us. People said that Sweetwater had nobody."
Sweetwater still has one Taeatafa sister.
Position: Middle blocker
Height, Class: 5-10, Sr.
Last Week: Had 21 kills in an 11-15, 15-10, 15-5, 15-13 volleyball victory over Montgomery.