There are many reasons Jessie Prichard can be labeled one of the Inland area's all-time greatest setters, and prime among these is Prichard's ability to constantly keep opposing defenses guessing.
Prichard, a junior at Corona Santiago, knows one of the worst things a setter can do is become predictable. Her knack for setting against the obvious gave her hitters the best attacking opportunities, which was a key factor in the Sharks maintaining their status as the top girls volleyball team in the Inland area in 2014.
Santiago again had one of the most explosive and diverse offenses in the entire state, despite losing three leading attackers to graduation. Prichard, who is committed to Loyola Marymount, managed to work in the three new starters and keep the Sharks playing at an elite level.
Prichard led the area with 1,195 assists, which is the second-highest total in Inland history. She also tallied 63 aces, 61 kills and 53 blocks in helping Santiago go undefeated in the Big VIII League for the third consecutive season. With Prichard leading the offense, the Sharks managed to reach the CIF-Southern Section's Division 1A title match and advance to the CIF-State's Division 1 regional semifinal round.
For these reasons, Prichard has been selected as the HS GameTime grls volleyball player of the year. Prichard is the just third setter to earn the honor since the award was introduced back in 2001, joining Lake Arrowhead Rim of the World's Nique Fradella (area's co-player of the year in 2005) and Redlands East Valley's Johnna Fouch (2007).
Santiago coach Arlen Elvik was not immune to Prichard's deception.
"There were times in matches (assistant coach) Phil (Sutherand) and I would look at one another and say, 'Did you think she was going to doing that?'" Elvik said. "Jessie isn't afraid to switch things up, and she's going to run whatever pops into her mind and what she's confident with. She has so many tools in her toolbox, and that's what makes her a great setter and what has helped make us a better team."
As a freshman, Prichard primarily was a back-row setter because her height (5-foot-6) made her a liability as a blocker. Prichard has grown a couple of inches over the past two seasons and has become one of the better blockers on a great blocking team. When Aliso Niguel's Lindsey Ruddins started to dominate the Division 1A championship, Elvik considered shifting his lineup to put Prichard against Ruddins.
"It definitely motivated me to get stronger and increase my vertical," Prichard said about not playing front row as a freshman. "I'd never been a setter who played at the net before, so I knew I had to put in extra work to get better. It has been exciting to get that opportunity."
Returning starters Makayla Wolfe and Lauren Lee wound up leading the team with 317 kills, respectively. Prichard got first-year starters Bailee Turang (297), Natalie Shollin (219) and Jordan Koehnke (150) involved, too, and that variety made Santiago difficult to slow down.
"Of all the teams in the state playoffs, Santiago's offense probably scared me the most," Santa Ana Mater Dei coach Dan O'Dell said following the Division 1 state regional semifinals. "She (Prichard) is an amazing setter and does a tremendous job running that offense."