The idea of going to Stanford University, especially for a volleyballer, can be quite the dream.
For Emmy Sharp, the dream was so intense, the current Burlingame senior actually spent two years as a ball girl for Stanford indoor volleyball during the 2014 and ’15 seasons.
In crossing over to the outdoor game, Sharp realized the dream earlier this year when she was admitted to Stanford University, while verbally committing to play for the Cardinal beach volleyball team, founded in 2013.
“I kind of freaked out that it was possible that I could actually go there,” Sharp said.
It has been an arduous journey since Sharp first verbally committed in the spring of 2018. The first hurdle came with the caveat of getting admitted to Stanford, which wouldn’t happen for almost another year.
Then came the injury, which cost Sharp her junior season at Burlingame. Four bulging discs in her back became the scariest obstacle standing between her and her dream of someday donning Cardinal red.
“Definitely,” Sharp said. “So, basically, I had committed to Stanford two days before I got injured. … It was so stressful waiting to figure out what would happen. But luckily I’m to a point where I don’t have pain when I play.”
A varsity outside hitter since she was a freshman, Sharp emerged as a sophomore in 2017, ranking second in kills on a Panthers team that became the first in school history to reach the CIF State Volleyball Championships tournament.
After suffering her back injury on the club volleyball circuit in 2018, however, she missed her junior season. With head coach K’Lynn Solt taking over the program in 2018, Sharp’s return to the court this year marked her first time playing for the Panthers’ second-year coach.
“For her, I know this is her last indoor season she expects to play, so we’re really exited to have her be a part of Burlingame volleyball again,” Solt said.
Burlingame is in the midst of a challenging week. The Panthers opened their season with a non-league sweep of Sequoia last Thursday. This week things picked up substantially, with three matches in three days, against Notre Dame-Belmont, St. Ignatius-SF and El Camino, followed by an appearance Saturday in the Chandler Invitational at Menlo School.
Tuesday’s five-set showdown with Notre Dame-Belmont proved a momentous victory for Burlingame. The Panthers trailed 2 sets to 1 going into Game 4, but battled back for a 20-25, 27-25, 17-25, 25-21, 15-10 win, the first time Burlingame has defeated NDB since 2011.
Sharp enjoyed her most prodigious kill output since Oct. 17, 2017, totaling a team-high 14 kills, while adding four blocks. Her teammate, senior middle Naomi Johnson, scored a double-double with 11 kills and 11 blocks.
“[Johnson] had a great game,” Sharp said. “Naomi, she’s one of the quietest girls on her team, she totally came out of her shell and had a great game.”
Solt said Sharp had a lot to do with Johnson’s career-high block total. Johnson’s previous best was four blocks in a match, which she did twice last season.
“[Sharp] was just solid all the way around and put up a heck of a supporting block on the outside as well,” Solt said.
Having played indoor volleyball since she was 9, Sharp made the switch to beach two years ago. And the crossover came with quite the travel itinerary. She signed up with the Santa Cruz Beach Volleyball Club, commuting every day through the month of July 2017, she said.
This summer, she split time between the indoor club game — advancing to the junior national championships with Rage Volleyball, run by NDB head coach Jen Agresti — and bouncing back and forth between her home and Los Angeles to play beach.
Sharp is one of six Stanford beach volleyball recruits who are slated as incoming freshmen next fall. The other five — Xolani Hodel, Malia Tufuga, Ellie Gamberdella, Kate Reilly and Maya Harvey — are all from Southern California.
Sharp said her final season of indoor volleyball is already a special one, though. This is because her younger sister Eliza was the only freshman to make the varsity team this year. Being three years apart in age, the two have never previously played for the same team.
“She’s definitely a force of a freshman,” Sharp said.