The volleyball world has been hearing about Lexi Sun for quite some time.
Consider that she did not play her junior year in high school for Santa Fe Christian in Solana Beach, Calif., because of USA commitments.
But when she returned in 2016 for her senior season, the 6-foot-3 outside hitter helped the team go 32-8, win a CIF San Diego Section title and a berth in the state’s first Open Division semifinals.
The recipient of a horde of local, state and national accolades, Sun is the overwhelming choice as the 2016 Lucky Dog Volleyball/VolleyballMag.com girls’ high school player of the year.
“She’s the smartest player I’ve coached,” first-year Santa Fe Christian coach Amanda Miles said. “She far exceeded my expectations as a leader and a teammate. We qualified for the CIF semifinals because of the person she is, the leader she is and the work ethic she has. Lexi has the ability to take over a match. She’s one of those players you remember in your coaching career.”
While Sun’s statistics certainly are impressive (630 kills, .431 hitting percentage, 288 digs), Miles was more impressed with Sun as a person.
“It’s her character,” she said. “Her teammates absolutely love her. She gave pregame talks and spends time with her teammates off the court. Everybody trusted her and believed in her. She understands what it takes for a team to be successful.”
Santa Fe junior defensive specialist-libero Camryn Tastad also had high praise for Sun, who is going to play at Texas.
“She’s the best teammate I’ve ever had,” Tastad said. “She pushes everybody to be better and sets a high level of intensity when she steps on the court. When she’s ready to go, the team follows suit. She was a third coach out there.
“Lexi gave us pregame speeches and got us fired up and ready to go. She was at practice early and stayed after. She always was willing to put the effort in. Lexi is never satisfied. She keeps working. It’s never good enough. She keeps pushing herself to be better and she always had a big smile on her face doing it. She’s a bright and happy kid.”
At first, Sun wasn’t exactly a willing participant in the sport.
“I played soccer when I was younger,” she said. “My parents forced me to play volleyball. I was so mad. I was literally crying and telling them I don’t want to do this. They just wanted me to try it.”
It didn’t take long for Sun to reverse course.
“I fell in love with the sport,” she said. “I was tall and could jump pretty well.”
Sun, who has been at Santa Fe since kindergarten, is a longtime member of the Coast volleyball club and gives major credit to the organization, run by Ozhan Bahrambeygui, for her development.
“I’ve had a lot of support and love from my coaches at Coast as well as from my family,” she said. “My dad has inspired me and encouraged me to work so much harder and to get better. My friends also have supported me and encouraged me to be my best.”
Sun also had high praise for Miles and assistant coach Drew Burdette (who also coaches in the Coast club program).
“They turned the program around this year and got us all on the same page and molded us into the team we became,” she said. “I think it would shock people just how much we accomplished this season. I had incredible coaches and teammates. It was so fun this season.”
Sun said taking her junior off was necessary given her hectic schedule the summer prior.
“With the youth national team we went to Peru and played. I took time off to recover and rest my body,” she said. “It was a good decision, but it also was a good decision to play my senior year.”
Sun has taken all the accolades and attention she’s received in stride.
“I just have to remember to stay humble,” she said. “My parents created a platform for me. You have to work hard for everything you are given even though people say all these things. That gives me more incentive to work hard and get better. Anything that is given to me gives me more drive to get better.”
Sun still gushes about Santa Fe Christian’s postseason run.
“We won a CIF section title and made the semifinals of state,” she said. “That was above and beyond what was expected of us. We are a really small Christian school. We had the opportunity to play some really good teams this year. It was a team effort. Without every single player on the team we wouldn’t have had any success.”
And Sun, who sports a 3.8 grade-point average at Santa Fe, downplayed her role as a superstar on the team.
“I played the role the best I could,” she said. “It’s a team sport and I played my role on the team, the one I was given, the best I could.”
Miles noted Sun helped come up with the team’s motto this season of “stay humble, hustle hard.”
“It would be easy for a player of her caliber that has played at the highest levels to take plays off and not put in the effort all the time,” she said. “That’s not Lexi. She loves the game and is a relaxed, smiley and passionate player. She’s received a lot of hype and recognition and she stays pretty humble. Lexi is extraordinary.”
Tastad has zero doubt Sun will be successful at the next level.
“For sure,” she said. “Lexi will have a huge impact on Texas as a freshman because of her skill level and her work ethic.”