In her final season of playing for the Garden City High School volleyball team, senior setter Remi Vargas seemed to save her best for her finale of playing for the Lady Buffaloes.
Playing the all-important setter position, Vargas was a key component of the Lady Buffs highly-successful season, which included winning the Western Athletic Conference title for the ninth straight season.
For her efforts, Vargas, a 5-foot-4-inch performer, was named the WAC Player of the Year, marking the second straight season for a Lady Buffs player to be so honored, following her teammate Reagan Karlin’s honor for 2018.
“I’m really shocked, but really excited about the honor,” Vargas said when she was informed of the honor by her coach, Trista Bailey. “I was having a bad day, but this makes my day. Usually, setters don’t get that recognition that an outside hitter would get.”
In addition to Vargas being named POY, Karlin joined her on the WAC first team while Libero Kelbi Richter earned second team honors.
Vargas was instrumental in helping the Lady Buffs to a 33-5 record, third most wins in program history, capturing the school’s fifth straight Class 6A sub-state championship to advance to the state tournament, as well as winning tournaments in McPherson and Maize.
In all, the five losses absorbed by the Buffs came against 6A state champion Blue Valley twice, state-ranked Blue Valley West and Blue Valley North and Class 5A power Maize South.
“I’ve been very fortunate to have such great hitters,” Vargas said. “They make me look good.”
To explain how valuable Vargas was to the Lady Buffs, one can look at team stats where she accumulated 856 assists from a team total of 896 (95.5 percent) while also serving at a team-high 98.7 percent accuracy. In her three-year varsity career, Vargas recorded 2,640 assists and 729 digs (262 her senior year).
“I’m really happy for her to get this recognition,” Bailey said of Vargas. “A lot of times setters are overlooked by hitters, but she’s had one of the best careers in the program and the amount of time she’s worked on her craft it’s nice to that recognized.”
Bailey said that Vargas possesses a high volleyball IQ.
“She just has a great understanding of the game, and knows where her teammates are and how to set it up for them to be successful,” Bailey said. “She puts the ball pretty much where players want it.”
Vargas acknowledged that it sometimes is difficult to get to every ball on her side of the net, but that’s the ultimate goal.
“I try to get to every one I can, so that helps us set up better to have the hitters put the ball where the other team’s defense isn’t,” Vargas said.
Vargas and her teammates entered the 6A state tourney as the No. 1 seed with a 32-3 record, and found themselves in the same Pool with No. 1-ranked Blue Valley and Blue Valley-North, another state-ranked team. They finished 1-2 with a win over Lawrence-Free State, but were unable to qualify for the semifinals.
“I thought we played our hearts out and that’s all you can do,” Vargas said. “The other teams were really good, but I thought we competed to the very end.”
It was a season that Vargas and her four fellow seniors had dreamed about making special, and it’s safe to say they were successful.
“We had a tough schedule and we beat a lot of good teams,” Vargas said. “The state comes down to the way you play in every set of every match, and if you have one off match, it makes it tough to advance.”
Vargas said to be a good setter that one has to have good hands and the ability to control the ball in a variety of positions.
“You set the ball differently for different hitters,” she said. “You want to put the ball where they can swing through the ball with all their power. Middle hitters you have to set it tighter, but the key is to make it the preference for each hitter.”
Bailey said that the intrinsic skills that Vargas possesses allowed her to play a different offense than usual.
“I put more ownership in her hands and put more play calls in her hands,” Bailey said. “What she can do is that she has a coach’s eye and understands what to do.”
Until recently, Vargas was unsure about her future in the sport, but has decided to pursue a playing opportunity at the college level. Her recruiting is still under way, and she has yet to decide on a school.
“I just decided I was going to miss it, so I wanted to try to play at the college level and see how it works out,” Vargas said.
While also undecided on an academic pursuit, she expressed an interest in medicine and the law.
Her teammate Karlin, meanwhile, will be signing Wednesday, Nov. 13, with Creighton University to pursue her volleyball college career. Karlin, the 2018 WAC POY, finished her season with 385 kills and 206 digs, completing her four-year career with 1,347 kills and 788 digs. Richter had a team-high 389 digs.
For a complete list and more information on the all-WAC team, go online to http://www.wacathletics.com.