Sac-Joaquin Female Fall Athlete of the Year: Gabriella Palmeri was always in the right place at the right time for NorCal champion St. Francis.
Location, location, location. St. Francis senior outside hitter is a big proponent of finding a great place and enjoying all that it has to offer.
So it’s no surprise that the section’s top recruit settled long ago on taking her game to Malibu and Pepperdine University.
It also explains why she has thrived at the all-girls school in Sacramento.
“The community here is like no other,” Palmeri said of the college preparatory campus. “I have seen the school come together (in times of joy and sorrow) throughout my four years here.”
St. Francis has certainly enjoyed having Palmeri on campus — and on the girls volleyball team, as she helped bring home the last two of the program’s 12 Sac-Joaquin Section championships. As one of the team’s eight seniors on the roster, Palmeri was a leader for the Troubadours on the floor and in the huddle.
That leadership was evident and most needed in the CIF Northern Regional Division I final against section foe Granite Bay. After suffering a surprising 25-16 opening set loss to the Grizzlies, Palmeri took over in a tight second set that turned the match around for the Troubadours. She hammered down five kills down the stretch of a 26-24 second-set win and finished with a match-high 21 kills as St. Francis won 3-1.
“I think that we might have underestimated their ability,” Palmeri said. “Losing that first set showed us that we needed to respect the opponent, and showed us that things were serious.”
Palmeri has been a serious recruit for a few years as a top player for one of the area’s best high school programs as well as the Nor Cal Volleyball Club. She committed to Pepperdine during her junior year and will head to Southern California in mid-July to start training.
She has always had a desire to play volleyball at Pepperdine — the Malibu campus being an admitted draw — but her decision has strengthened throughout the recruiting process. Getting to know the program and the school better has Palmeri excited.
St. Francis has been no stranger to success, and 2012 was among the school’s greatest seasons in girls’ volleyball. The team posted a 38-3 record, but fell short of achieving its goal of winning a second state title for head coach Alynn Wright.
After the Troubadours lost 3-1 to Marymount-L.A. in the state championship match, Palmeri said that the disappointment was short-lived.
“It is always tough to lose, and focusing on what you could have done better,” she said. “Later that night, though, we were laughing and enjoying each other’s company, and were sad only because it would be the last match so many of us would play together.”
Just another product of being in the right place with good people.
THE PALMERI FILES
• THE STATS: The senior outside hitter led the Troubadours with 447 kills, 403 digs, 36 blocks, 30 aces, and 321 serve receptions. She was named first-team All-State by MaxPreps.com.
• SIGNATURE PERFORMANCE: Palmeri racked up 21 kills and 18 digs in rallying her team to the Division I NorCal title. The Troubadours lost the first game against section rival Granite Bay before rebounding to win the next three.
• FAVORITE ATHLETE: Jesse Owens. “He trained and worked incredibly hard to achieve his success and break world records, but he also had to overcome the racism of the time and the controversies concerning his participation in the 1936 Olympics. I admire him because he took risks to compete and did not let fear hold him back.”
• WHAT’S NEXT: After winning SJS titles in her junior and seasons, she will head south to play at Pepperdine University on scholarship. “It’s always been Pepperdine ever since I got to high school,” she said. “At first, it was probably the location, but I liked it even more when I learned more about the school and the program.”
— Jim McCue
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