Wa-Hi's Zamora doesn't limit her passion to the courts

Blue Devil volleyball player Chantelle Zamora doesn't limit her passion to the courts as she prepares academically for college.

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Wa-Hi outside hitter Chantelle Zamora hopes to take her passion for volleyball from the Blue Devil courts to the college level.

WALLA WALLA - Passionate people make the world a little bit better place.

One of those people, 17-year-old Wa-Hi senior Chantelle Zamora, roams the Blue Devil volleyball court as an outside hitter.

"She (Chantelle) is really encouraging," fellow senior and Blue Devil teammate Lexi Mahan said. "She gets us all pumped up and she's really fun to play with (on the volleyball court)."

That passion has been welcomed by Wa-Hi coach Audra Cummings.

"Chantelle is a very passionate kid," Cummings said. "She's a solid student. She's just a good kid. She's really likeable."

Zamora arrived at Wa-Hi through the College Place schools, has been a volleyball player at Wa-Hi for four years - three at the varsity level - and has found time away from that "volleyball passion" to hit the books and prepare for college.

But she hasn't forgotten about that creative, passionate side. Math and floriculture are among her favorite classes.

"Probably math (Advance Math Concepts)," Zamora said of her favorite class, "just because I feel like I'm good at it sometimes. When I understand it, it goes easily. (And) I'm taking floriculture - making flowers and stuff. It's really fun because I like to be creative.

"I'm still thinking about it (a future career after college)," Zamora continued. "I really, really like kids. So, I'm thinking about being a kindergarten or first-grade teacher."

A year-round commitment to volleyball hasn't left a lot of empty time in Zamora's schedule.

"Volleyball is her (Zamora's) sport," Cummings said. "She takes advantage of every opportunity to play. She plays club (volleyball) in the offseason, attends workouts in the spring at the community college, and attends open gyms in the summer. Anytime there is anything going on, she rearranges her schedule to make sure she has the opportunity to play volleyball."

In those few spare moments, Zamora enjoys her friends and family. And there is plenty of family to enjoy, as dad, Ramon Zamora, Jr., is one of nine siblings, and, along with mom, Jennifer, Chantelle has two older sisters, a younger sister and a younger brother.

"I just relax and hang out with my friends," Zamora said of her spare time. "I love to do stuff with my family. My dad owns Zap Boxing, so when I get a chance, I like to go down there and get in a few punches. It's fun to go down there as it's a great environment and it's a bonding time with my dad."

That family connection led Chantelle to her volleyball passion. Her oldest sister, Angel, was a Wa-Hi and club volleyball player and Chantelle tagged along.

"When I would go and watch her volleyball games, it became an interest to me," Chantelle said. "It looked so fun that it started from there. Once I got into high school, I wanted to focus on volleyball."

Focus may be an understatement as Chantelle goes from one volleyball season to the next.

"I go from high school volleyball, with a month off, right into club," Zamora said. "Then it's open gym with Tim Toon (Walla Walla Community College volleyball coach) with individual (coaching sessions) with Toon, and then it's time for the high school season."

Zamora is listed as an outside hitter, but contributes more than that for the Blue Devils.

"She is one of my solid kids," Cummings said. "I can rely on her everyday to show up and get after it. She's an all-around player. She's a good defender, a great server, a great attacker - the whole package."

Zamora's area of growth in volleyball may be one of those intangibles that has led to her role as an all-around teammate for the Blue Devils.

"My attitude was a big thing," Zamora said of her growth as a volleyball player. "It killed me my sophomore year. I got down on myself too easily and way too much. I learned to get over it (a bad play) and put it in the past. I learned to not be so selfish and give to the team, as I want them to give to me. I don't want them to be down because they messed up. I wouldn't want to do that to them."

That growth has been noticed, and respected, by Cummings.

"She's her own worst critic," Cummings said. "She's done a better job of not wearing her emotions on her face. She's done a lot better at brushing it off and moving on."

Zamora recognizes the support the Blue Devils have provided in her development as a volleyball player.

"My teammates have helped very much," Chantelle said. "They keep telling me, ‘If I'm down, I'll get it back.'

"I love her (Cummings)," Zamora continued. "She's a very good coach. She's a good disciplinarian and that's what we need. She helped me a lot my sophomore and junior years. She would say ‘Girl, what's going on?' It helped a lot. I don't have so much attitude now. I'm not Debbie Downer, I need to be Chantelle."

Zamora, as a hitter, has learned that not all kill shots stay in play.

"It (hitting shots out of bounds) happens," Zamora said. "I tell myself to be smart and I need to get these points in for my team. I bring back the heat a little bit and it helps me focus. Then, I gradually bring it back up."

On defense, Zamora understands the importance of making productive digs.

"You have to tell yourself you can get it (the opponent's kill)," Zamora said. "If I make a dig, then my setter can get a set, and someone else can get the kill. And pancakes (diving to bounce the ball off the hand on the floor) are in. You have to be fast and get your hand there, and it bounces right back off."

The Blue Devils know communication is a big part of defense, and Zamora's passion shows in it.

"People have to hear you," Zamora said. "You have to be really loud."

"She's super-talkative," Mahan said. "She let's you know if she has the ball or doesn't."

Zamora, as a server, has gone to the jump-serve as the season has progressed.

"I was easing back into it (serving) and staying on the ground," Zamora said. "I practiced on the jump-serve to make sure I could get 9-of-10 in. When I felt confident, I used it for the first time at Wenatchee. I get more power on the ball when jumping and it's harder for the passers on the other side to read."

The Blue Devils stood at 3-4 after the first round of Columbia Basin Big Nine play.

"We start slow and kind of ease into it (the match)," Zamora said. "You can't do that against good teams. You have to start aggressive. We are capable if we start strong and play how we can. We can't hang our heads. We have to bring energy and play smarter and hit where they aren't."

For Zamora, volleyball continues to be in her future plans.

"I'm a little short (5-foot-8) to be a hitter," Zamora said. "I talked to the Wenatchee (Community College) coach and he surprised me. Even though I'm short, he told me I can jump and do the other stuff. Maybe I can go on and be a hitter. Whenever I thought of going to college, I always thought of myself as being a hitter. Then the reality check came that I may not be able to be a hitter at all. It was a good compliment from him to tell me that I could be an outside hitter.

"I've been thinking of going with Tim Toon at (WWCC)," Zamora said of her future plans. "Then Wenatchee talked to me. That (hearing from Wenatchee) opened the door a little more. Now, I just want to wait and see where I could go."

If Zamora's Blue Devil teammates have a vote, she will play at the college level.

"She's awesome," Mahan said. "She's going to go somewhere big and play volleyball in college."

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