The 1,000 Club

Westville's Sarah Henrich recorded her 1,000th career assist in Thursday's match against Boone Grove.  

WESTVILLE — At first glance, Sarah Henrich wouldn't appear to be someone who could rattle a teammate's cage.

Five-foot-two with apple cheeks, the Westville senior doesn't strike an intimidating pose.

Then again, anyone who's felt Henrich's wrath at practice knows better.

"She's actually stopped practice," Westville coach Dale Lake said. "She's one of the few girls who will dive in practice. That's hard to find in any sport. A lot of people don't practice like they play. She gets this look on her face when she knows practice isn't going good and I'm waiting for it. It'll be, why am I, the shortest person on the court, doing the blocking, doing the killing? Last night, she got in a girl's face. I love it. I'm all for it. She wasn't doing it to be (mean), she was doing it to get her point across. She told her that in the huddle. The girls don't get mad at her, they just do what she says."

It's called respect, respect for a four-year varsity player who only knows one way to do things when she's on the court, a drive that carried her to a special plateau Thursday as Henrich registered her 1,000th career assist.

"(Lake) likes to play good cop, bad cop, and I'm always the bad cop," Henrich said, smiling. "He does support me. I tell them, I promise you, I'm not trying to be mean. It's just what the team needs sometimes. When I was younger, I always looked up to older players. As I've gotten older, I've been taking more control. Growing up with my sister (Megan) and cousin (Emily), we would always play volleyball when we were together, and with them both being setters, I feel like I was destined to be a setter."

As much as the soft hands and cool head are crucial to the position, the leadership quality is just as essential.

"It's the leader more than the setter," Lake said. "We don't have a lot of setters in the program. That aside, you can't replace the bulldog mentality. The quarterback/point guard is a perfect correlation. She's my coach on the floor. She played Dunes, she was on a national championship team (Dunes 17 White). She knows how to win. She wants to win every time she takes the court. I'm not a big yeller, but I put a lot of pressure on her. We were struggling as a team the other day, I told her to win the game. It was 21-17, they were coming back, and she literally won the game, her serves, her kills. I was proud of her."

That pride extends well beyond the record, a tangible validation of Henrich's impact as a Blackhawk. Records at the school aren't extensive, but she may be the first player to reach four digits in assists.

"I always wanted to accomplish something to make sure my time at Westville meant something," she said. "Just reaching it feels so good. It makes feel like I'm making an impact, helping people. You've got a lot of things to worry about. Is the pass going to come to me or am I going to have run across the court and get it? You have to make a lot of decisions. It isn't just you. You have to have a pass and you have to have a kill. It's a team thing. It reflects on the whole team, working together."

Henrich began playing volleyball in third grade when her mom put her in a Dunes league. She didn't play club ball until she was in eighth grade, when she first started setting. She was coached in middle school by Dawn Swistek, whose daughter Elise is a standout at New Prairie. Omar Vasquez coached the Blackhawks in 2016 and 2017 before Lake took over last season.

"Dawn was really good. She worked you very hard and so did Omar," Henrich said. "He had us running the track six laps a day, every day over the summer. He took us to a Dunes league on Sundays. Dale's more easy, but he wants you to do good, too."

As a freshman, Henrich shared time at setter with Brittney Sparks, then did the same the last two years with Ali Hisick before beginning to play all the way around this season. Henrich was all-Porter County Conference and team MVP in 2018.

"It's the hands, knowing where she's got to be," Lake said. "I've had coaches, referees, compliment her hands. I truly believe they're the best in the conference. She'll notice the hot hand and she's third on the team in kills. She had 13 kills in a match. It's uncanny the way she's able to see and read a defense. She's very intelligent. Whatever I tell her to do, she takes the team on her back and carries us."

Whether hitting or setting, Henrich is almost always spot on. She's made just 17 errors in 815 set attempts and missed only 11 of her 195 hits.

"If the hitters are struggling, the team's not getting a kill, I'll try to tip it over, place it so we can get a point and get a side-out," she said. "You've got to do what you've got to do. Honestly, I just think about the next play. Somebody will come up to me and say, I'm so sorry about that pass. I'll be like, what are you talking about? I don't remember. I'm over it. I want to do good the next play. I don't care if you hit it in the net three times, I'm setting you again and you're going to get the next one over."

A 3.9 student who takes advanced placement classes at Purdue Northwest, Henrich doesn't anticipate playing in college at this point as she's still figuring out her academic plans. However it pans out, Lake would love to have her back in the program.

"I want her to get into coaching someday," he said. "She's a big mentor to the junior high girls. I really push them to come to practice. She's helped them a lot. She has a coach's mentality."

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