Southeast High School Raiders

May 9, 2014

Prep volleyball: SE libero Paloblanco to Temple

In volleyball, the libero position is limited to playing on the back row and specializes in defensive contributions.

Southeast Whitfield High School senior Yasmeen Paloblanco wasn’t limited in what she meant to the Lady Raiders, though, and her ability to excel as a libero is helping her remain on the court as she heads to college.

Paloblanco signed an athletic scholarship Wednesday at Southeast, joining Chattanooga’s Tennessee Temple University, a Division I member of the National Christian College Athletic Association. In addition to her partial athletic grant, Paloblanco will receive academic scholarships.

A two-year starter at Southeast — she played two seasons at Dalton before transferring — Paloblanco was the starting libero for the 2012 squad, which won the Area 7-4A championship and reached the Class 4A semifinals, the deepest state tournament run ever for a volleyball program from Murray or Whitfield counties. The 2013 Lady Raiders reached the second round of state, the fourth straight season Southeast advanced at least that far.

“It has been so relaxing and friendly,” Paloblanco said of her two years at Southeast. “It’s like my second family. I’ve felt at home.”

Paloblanco was chosen for The Daily Citizen’s 2013 All-Area Volleyball Team — and the 2013 All-Area 7-4A second team — after tallying 346 digs, the main statistic for liberos, plus a 93.3 serving percentage with 58 aces during her senior season. She had 606 digs in her time at Southeast, as well as 113 career aces.

“It’s her heart and hustle,” said Southeast coach Bethany Kenemer, who took over as Southeast’s head coach last season after previously serving as an assistant. “I think if the ball was going through the wall, she would go into the wall, play the ball back and then run back. She’s not going to give up, and that amount of heart and hustle is what makes a good defensive player. She’s going to sacrifice her body to make sure that ball doesn’t hit the ground, and I think that is what makes her so good at her position.”

Mary Willis, set to begin her first season as Tennessee Temple’s head coach, touted Paloblanco’s “ability to read the ball,” along with her work ethic.

“In a couple years, she could be an amazing player,” Willis said. “She’s already at 60 percent for her volleyball skills, and in a couple years could be at 100 percent. She’s one of those players who you can give anything to do and she’ll do it. That really gets me about her.”

Willis called the libero position the “captain of the defense,” a role Paloblanco could win pretty quick for the Lady Crusaders.

“I don’t have a set libero or defense yet, so she’ll have the chance to play,” Willis said. “She’ll need to fight for a position, and I can tell from her attitude that she will.”

Kenemer said Paloblanco will need to grow accustomed to the increased speed of the game. What might have felt fast at the high school level is simply normal speed in college, Kenemer said.

“A lot is the speed of the game is faster in college,” Kenemer said. “You have to get used to it. She wants to learn, and when she gets there she will pick up on things that she didn’t know before.”

Paloblanco was attracted to Tennessee Temple for a number of reasons: its proximity to home; the opportunity to be part of the program’s rise; and the school’s academic offerings. The Crusaders finished 18-15 a year ago but only return five players for the 2014 season.

“I’d rather go to a team where I’ll get playing time and we’ll progress together,” Paloblanco said.

Paloblanco plans to major in psychology and said Tennessee Temple has a good program of study.

“That’s what you’ll focus on in the long run,” she said. “You’ll play sports in college, but after the four years, will sports really be what you do? No, you’ll do what you went to study.”

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