ANTIOCH -- The Deer Valley High boys volleyball team is rarely pushed to the limit when it plays matches against Bay Valley Athletic League opponents. In fact, the Wolverines haven't lost a league match since 2006.
The challenge Deer Valley coach Lou Panzella put forth to junior outside hitter Jordan Ewert in 2014 was to play every match and compete in every practice like the season was on the line, to be at his best even when the opponents weren't playoff-caliber.
Simply put, he was a role model, and needed to set an example for the younger players.
Ewert improved in that area as the season went on, and the results were impressive.
He was named the BVAL's Most Valuable Player and led the Wolverines in just about every offensive statistical category, including 5.4 kills per set for a season total of 529. Ewert also saved his best for last, with a hitting percentage of close to .500 in the postseason to help the Wolverines win their second straight North Coast Section Division I title.
For those reasons, Ewert has been selected as the Bay Area News Group's East Bay boys volleyball player of the year.
"I never had any concerns about him being ready to play," Panzella said. "The better the team, the better he played. I never worried about that."
Ewert was going to be Deer Valley's go-to player after it graduated Derrico Kwa and Marcus Lee from a 2013 team that won the school's first section title in boys volleyball and finished 42-2.
Ewert wasn't the only one on Deer Valley's roster who could make plays, and the team didn't win 40 matches this season and repeat as section champion all because of one player. But when the Wolverines needed a point, they knew who to turn to.
"Knowing that I had the trust of my teammates made me want to come through for them and get the kills," Ewert said.
There's still room for growth in Ewert game's. After all, Panzella said he had to remind himself at times this season that Ewert was still just a young kid.
But the expectations are set, both for Ewert and the program.
"We wanted to come back and accomplish the same goals we had for ourselves," Ewert said. "To do that justice made us feel special. It meant a lot to the school to win back-to-back championships."