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Tuesday, September 7, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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High School Sports

Volleyball preview: Collymore is a hit on any stage

Special to The Seattle Times

It is not entirely certain that Jill Collymore is the best high-school volleyball player in Washington this year. But she is definitely the best high-school volleyball player that few have heard of.

A classically trained pianist and honors student at tiny Bush School above the western shore of Lake Washington, Collymore remains something of an athletic enigma as she enters her senior season at the private school of about 150 students.

She did not receive so much as all-league mention in the Class 1A Emerald City Conference last season, but is rated the No. 28 senior prospect in the nation by prepvolleyball.com.

She has played just three years of volleyball — and missed substantial chunks of that time to injuries — but has twice competed in the USA Volleyball national tournament and has been selected to the USAV Youth National developmental team.

She has never appeared in a high-school state tournament, but has agreed to a full-ride scholarship from the University of Washington after being wooed by programs nationwide.

"She definitely compares among the top players I've seen in the state, and I've seen a lot of people," said Chris Aldanese, the first-year Bush coach who played for the men's program at UC-San Diego.

It wasn't supposed to be this way for Collymore, 16, a powerful outside hitter who stands just under 5 feet 10.

Of Victor and Valerie Collymore's two daughters, older sister Jane seemed destined to be the athlete while Jill was a musical prodigy during their upbringing in suburban Englewood, Colo. Jill spent hours each day at the piano and played with the Colorado Symphony.

But their parents, both medical doctors, ensured each sister watched the other perform, and a unique symbiosis developed.

"I thought I had it all wrapped up nice and tidy; one in volleyball, one in piano," Valerie Collymore said. "It never occurred to me that if we took Jill to Jane's volleyball matches and Jane to Jill's music recitals that they might both find the inspiration to cross over."

But that's what happened, with Jill taking her first stab at organized volleyball during her freshman year at Kent-Denver High School and Jane, now a junior standout with No. 4-ranked Florida, taking up music and poetry while helping the Gators finish second in last season's NCAA tournament.

"I was sitting at the piano for hours every day," said Jill. "I wanted to get into something physical and team-oriented."

Her meteoric rise on the court began after her freshman season, when she played on the 14-U team that placed ninth in the USAV national tournament.

Her club coach said she has barely tapped her potential.

"She's still new in the game and playing with people who have been at it a long time," said Dawn Colston, head of the Kent Juniors program.

"On whatever team I play on, I always want to set the highest goal for ourselves," Collymore said of her volleyball goals. "And that would be winning a state championship."

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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