Zobeck helps Soldotna cagers achieve goals

Reaching for the Stars

Posted: Tuesday, January 28, 2003

With the rate at which the Soldotna High School girls basketball team is reaching its goals, the Stars should be set to take over the world sometime this summer.

That statement may be a little tongue in cheek, but the Stars have been able to clear every hurdle placed in front of them so far this year and are currently 14-0 overall.

A big part of their success has been the consistent play of Hillary Zobeck, one of seven seniors anchoring the squad.

"She's a great all-around ball player," said Soldotna coach Mark Tuter. "She runs well, she shoots well -- she can do it all. She even handles the ball if we need her to."

Indeed, Zobeck has been a key member for the Stars basketball team since her freshman season, and the squad has steadily improved. The team posted a 7-14 overall mark that year, then followed it up with a 13-9 mark in her sophomore season. The Stars were 14-8 a year ago, and already have matched that win total this season.

The success has been as simple as setting goals -- then working as hard as it takes to meet them.

"We've had five main goals this season," Zobeck said. "Our first was to win all our games in Fairbanks. The second was to win (at the Aztec Holiday Classic) in San Diego. There was a wide variety of skill levels there, but we got what we went to get -- first place -- and we played well against the tough teams. Our third goal was to win the Peninsula Challenge."

The rest of the Stars' goals have been set for the end of the season and involve play in the region and state tournaments.

"We've met all our goals so far," Zobeck said.

Zobeck said she started playing basketball in the Boys and Girls Club program in elementary school, along with many of her current Soldotna teammates.

"Everyone in the family played basketball, and all my friends played too -- and I've been tall since forever," said Zobeck, who is listed on the Soldotna roster at 5-foot-11, of sticking with basketball through high school.

Zobeck's mother, Shirley, said she still has fond memories of watching her daughter and her current teammates play on elementary coed teams.

"(Current SoHi boys player) Ricky Simpson always wanted them to pass to him," she said. "They had a great bonding experience from that, and some opportunities they wouldn't have had otherwise."

While Zobeck said her family is known for their basketball trick shots -- Zobeck said her father, Paul, has an advantage as he spends his days in a gym as a physical education teacher at Skyview -- Zobeck described her game in pretty straightforward terms.

"My role is to play good defense and score baskets," Zobeck said. "Our team has pretty good depth this year. We're working hard on our man-to-man defense. We try to work hardest on defense so it will carry our offense."

Tuter said Zobeck can be counted on to carry her share of the load, and then some.

"She's a real clutch ball player. If I need her to draw a foul, or hit a big shot, or break a halfcourt trap, she can do that," Tuter said.

Teammate Rachel Besse said it isn't just skills and hustle Zobeck brings to the court.

"She brings a lot of humor to the team, that's for sure," Besse said. "If someone's feeling down, she's always the one to make them laugh. She doesn't goof around in practice, but she's always happy."

Zobeck's attitude also was prevalent on the volleyball court for the Stars, where she developed into one of the area's top hitters.

"On and off the court, she's a great role model. She has high standards, and she's a natural leader," said Soldotna volleyball coach Pako Whannell. "She's always joking around, always making people laugh, trying not to let the tension or the situation get to everybody."

Zobeck was named the Region III/4A Most Valuable Player during the region tournament this season, though the Soldotna volleyball team has had its share of heartbreak, finishing fourth -- one spot out of the state tournament -- in three of Zobeck's four years with the team.

"I don't know how many times I've seen the team get fourth place at regions and not make it to state -- more times than I'd like," Zobeck said.

Still, Zobeck, who said she discovered the sport while participating in current Soldotna swimming coach Sohail Marey's phys-ed class, considers volleyball to be her favorite pastime.

"It's just because I can hit," Zobeck said.

Zobeck said she'd like to play volleyball in college next year, though she's not yet sure where that will be.

She said her favorite subject is math, and while her grade point average is somewhere between 3.7 and 3.9, she said she'd like to learn the art of advertising, a subject that caught her attention when she noticed some flashy billboards on a family trip to Phoenix a few years ago.

Zobeck is a member of Soldotna's National Honor Society, and said one of her other off-court hobbies is shopping -- yet another source of motivation for the Stars to fulfill their remaining goals and play at the state tournament in Anchorage in March.

Of course, the Stars have been knocking down their goals as efficiently as they knock down baskets, and any extra motivation appears unnecessary.

"It is fun," Zobeck said. "It's been a while since we've had as much success in basketball and it's pretty exciting."

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