LAGUNA BEACH — She's not a trendy dresser, she thinks like a philosopher and plays volleyball like a woman possessed.
Life, according to Laguna Beach's Hilary Kyle, is complex, serious and important. It makes sense then, that she sees volleyball as more a way of life than a game.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday November 16, 1993 Orange County Edition Sports Part C Page 12 Column 3 Sports Desk 1 inches; 33 words Type of Material: Correction
Girls' volleyball--It was reported in Monday's Times Orange County Edition that Hilary Kyle is the only senior on the Laguna Beach girls' volleyball team. Jennifer Tyus, a defensive specialist, is also a senior and co-captain with Kyle.
"She is a unique person at the high school level," Coach Mike Soylular said. "Hilary is very opinionated, intelligent, stubborn, controversial.
"She's also one of the best athletes to come out of Laguna Beach."
Kyle, a senior outside hitter and four-year starter for Laguna Beach, the Pacific Coast League champion and defending Division I State finalist, is hardly the girl-next-door type.
When most girls her age were discovering boys and makeup, Kyle was contemplating her place on the planet.
"By the time she was 9, she wanted to know why was she here, what is this (life) all about," said her mother Lura Kyle.
What Kyle isn't is phony. She admits to alienating potential friends and making it difficult on the ones she hasn't pushed away.
"I've never had many friends, I've always just talked to myself," she said. "If I don't like you, I won't waste my time getting to know you. I expect a lot out of people and I'm pretty difficult to deal with.
"I'm not into the superficial part of life. I dress pretty crappy . . . I don't \o7 have \f7 anything, so you can't \o7 use \f7 me for anything."
Kyle's parents divorced when she was 11 or 12. She and her two brothers and younger sister--Stephanie is the starting setter on the junior varsity team--moved to Laguna Beach. She and her siblings went to school in Irvine, which is part of the reason she never bothered to cultivate friendships around town.
But to those few she has allowed into her inner circle, Kyle can be warm and funny.
"Around people who have spent time with her, she's radiant and joyful and exuberant," her mother said.
Those aren't always the adjectives used to describe Kyle's relationships with her teammates. She can be critical, demanding and unforgiving.
Soylular doesn't always see eye-to-eye with Kyle and has suspended her before. He believes Kyle can be too hard on her teammates, but has given her some leeway.
"I see a lot of myself at that age in Hilary," he said. "I couldn't handle stupid mistakes either."
Kyle takes the mistakes of her teammates as a personal affront and has little patience for anyone she doesn't think is putting her heart and soul into a match.
"She can be hard on people, but only when she thinks they're not playing up to par," said teammate Christy Collisson, a junior setter. "She won't take any excuses, but some people just can't be as intense as she is."
Her ire isn't reserved for teammates. Family and friends are bound by the same requirements.
"By her own standards, she works so hard that she doesn't understand when someone else appears to give less than 100%," her mother said. "It's difficult for her to understand that they may already have given 100% but by their standards."
Kyle defends her demands.
"I don't ask any more of anyone than I ask of myself," she said.
Yet she is realizing that she can't always ask for a better effort, performance or result.
The change of heart came after a series of events, starting when she quit her club team, took some time off from volleyball and traveled to France.
Soylular and her teammates have seen glimpses of the transformation, and they like what they see.
For one, Kyle seems to be having more fun.
"Before it seemed like a job to her," Collisson said. "This year, I think she's realizing that people do play this for fun."
Said Kyle: "I'm starting to realize some people don't have the capabilities to play the way you think they can, the way I think they can. I can only ask as much of this team as they can give."
What she's asking now is at least one more victory, when Laguna Beach travels to Manhattan Beach Mira Costa Tuesday night for a Southern Section Division I quarterfinal match.
A shot at Corona del Mar would give Kyle a chance to duplicate her performance in their meeting early in the season at the Orange County Championships, when Laguna Beach knocked off the then top-ranked Sea Kings en route to the tournament title.
Kyle isn't so sure she can match that performance.
"That's probably as well as I have played in my life," she said.
Soylular believes her best high school outing came last week against Capistrano Valley, when she recorded 25 kills. But there have been other highlights.
Soylular credits Kyle, his only senior on a roster chock full of sophomores and juniors, with a majority of the Artists' success.
"Without her we would have lost 30% of our passing, hitting, digging," he said. "She's equal to two girls, maybe even more. Without her, we wouldn't have won anything. If we go any further, it won't be without her."
Collisson calls her "one of the best players in the county," and hopes that because she missed some of the last club season, she won't be overlooked for a college scholarship.
Kyle, who last year played in the shadow of 1992 section co-MVP Rachel Wacholder, now at Colorado, has similar concerns.
"Everyone was always looking at Rachel and she got a lot of the credit. That's not bad and it's not good. That's just the way it was," said Kyle, who is being courted by Alabama and Tulane. "I think it will work out fine."
Soylular said Kyle's height--she's 5 feet 6--is a disadvantage when it comes to playing at the Division I college level.
"She has all the skills a great player must possess, but it's tough without the height," he said.
But she's already beaten some of the odds. "Usually you have a defensive specialist at that height, but she's not, she's an offensive weapon. Being 5-6 you normally don't get that kind of recognition."