EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 2, 2012

Hillies' Sonuga soars from JV B team to varsity standout

Hillies' Sonuga soars from JV B team to varsity standout

By Dave Dyer

---- — HAVERHILL — Any preseason scouting reports on the Haverhill girls volleyball team have likely been disposed of for awhile now.

Sophomore middle hitter Abigail Sonuga has made sure of that.

Sonuga wasn’t even on the radar screen last year when she was a freshman playing on the JV “B” team. Her skills were minimal and she had limited experience.

In middle school, the 5-foot-9 Sonuga had been cut from the seventh grade team and, while she played some in the eighth grade, it was hardly substantial.

So who would have expected that she would start for the Hillies this year, lead the team in kills and blocks, by nearly twice the number as anyone else, and be second on the team in service aces?

“I’ve never had anyone go from JV B one year to varsity and starting the next year,” said 20-year head coach Bill Kaste. “It’s just because she worked so hard at it.”

Indeed, that is pretty much the only explanation for Sonuga’s meteoric rise, the one she points to and a major reason why the Hillies are enjoying a fine 6-2 season and are unbeaten in MVC Division 2 action.

“It’s just because I played a lot in the offseason, went to camps and really got into it,” said Sonuga, who is of Nigerian descent. “I liked playing last year and I knew if I practiced a lot, I’d get better.”

Having some natural jumping ability certainly helps, but it was the practice and determination that has made the difference for Sonuga.

“My goal was to make varsity and start because I knew there was an open spot,” said Sonuga, an excellent student who is in all honors classes.

Speaking of academics, Kaste says that Sonuga’s rapid development on the volleyball court is “kind of like she skipped a grade” and something that others should emulate.

“A lot of kids could really improve if they worked as hard, maybe not by as much as she has, but an awful lot,” said Kaste.

Although she is now a solid starter and, in a way, a quiet leader, Sonuga knows that she’s far from a complete player and has things to work on.

“I need to be quicker and I need to commit more to a play,” she said.

For now, Sonuga is all volleyball all the time. She used to play basketball but gave it up, primarily because “I wasn’t that good.”

However, if the Hillies’ basketball staff gets wind of her natural ability and work ethic, a return to the hardcourt for hoops might be a possibility.

All about Abigail A few things worth knowing about Haverhill sophomore Abigail Sonuga: Although born in Boston, her family is from Nigeria and she lived there for four years from ages 2-6 Abigail is really her middle name. Her first name is Olamide She has three siblings and they all went to other high schools, an older sister went to school in Boston, another sister went to Pentucket and her brother went to Central Catholic An excellent student, she is in all honors classes, her favorite being math