As a volleyball player, Justine Quaggan knows about the team concept.
And even though she’s playing an individual sport like tennis now, the Desert Vista junior knows how to take one for the team.
When Kat Hunnicutt decided not to return to the Thunder girls tennis team as the No. 1 player for her junior season, Quaggan was asked to move up to that spot on the playing ladder this spring.
“That means she’s playing against tournament players all the time and it’s not like she’s a ranked tournament player,” Desert Vista girls tennis coach Angel Singer explained. “So she really is taking one for the team, but she doesn’t complain.”
Quaggan takes it in stride.
“If other players are better than me, I don’t care because it makes me play harder and better,” she said.
Without Hunnicutt, Singer was forced to revamp her lineup this season.
“From what I’ve seen so far, if Justine was playing No. 2 she’d be winning 90 percent of her matches this season,” Singer said. “But she’s a team player, and I think a lot of that comes from playing on the volleyball team.”
Quaggan’s choice of athletic activities started when she was young.
Her mother played volleyball in high school and college while her father was a tennis player.
“I started playing tennis when I was about 4 or 5 and started volleyball when I was about 7,” Quaggan said. “My mom was sad when I decided to quit volleyball, but club season is the same as tennis. I always enjoyed volleyball, but I quit because I felt like I was better at tennis and I like it better.”
She has also been taking chemistry and biology classes that demand most of her time during the volleyball season in the fall.
Quaggan is one of nine juniors on the Thunder team this season and has pretty much taken over the leadership role, Singer said.
“She is the leader of the junior class, which is most of my team,” Singer said, “and she makes the seniors (Kelly Neujhar, Emily Rath and Molly Olague) laugh, so they love her and the younger girls look up to her.”
Other than a net, Quaggan doesn’t see many similarities between the two sports.
“We’re still a team,” she said, “but you can’t cheer and yell like we do in volleyball.”
She has also found a private tennis coach and has been taking lessons three times a week during the off season.
Quaggan may have dropped volleyball, but she hasn’t burned out on athletics.
“If I didn’t play sports, I don’t know what I’d do,” she said.