In a spacious room adjoined to the court at Honda Center in Anaheim, after a post-game press conference on March 4, Valencia High’s Kayla Konrad basked in the glow of her program’s first-ever CIF title as she unwound tape from her ankles and cast it aside. The senior wasn’t ready to do likewise with her high school athletic career. After three state playoff games, Valencia girls basketball’s all-time leading scorer returned to the school’s athletic field for just her second season of lacrosse. This after she’d taken up organized volleyball for the first time in the fall. “I just wanted to try something new,” Konrad said of playing lacrosse. “I thought it would be good to get out of basketball for a while and try a different sport.” Konrad is The Signal’s 2016-17 Female Athlete of the Year mostly for her work on the hardwood, but it’s hard to completely detach her success in basketball from the fearless enthusiasm with which she embraced two unfamiliar sports. “She’s always been one to try everything out,” said Ashlee Ane, a teammate of Konrad’s on the basketball and lacrosse teams. “She loves being a triple-sport athlete or more. She’s one of those people who likes to branch out and get better at everything.”
Konrad had talked about playing volleyball since her freshman year, but never pursued it.
Then, this fall, girls basketball coach Jerry Mike approached her in the weight room. “He said if I wanted to do it, he was fine with it. It was my senior year,” recalled Konrad, who went straight to Viking volleyball coach Ray Sanchez and joined the team. Konrad, who’s 6-foot-1, played middle blocker as Valencia went on to win a co-Foothill League title, its 14th crown in the last 15 years. Like with lacrosse, though, the transition to a new sport wasn’t seamless. “Going from a sport like basketball where you know everything and going to something you don’t know is frustrating at times,” Konrad said. “But in both sports, I had coaches and teammates who helped me get through it. (Some level of frustration) is always going to happen when you’re playing different sports. I’m always up for the challenge.” As she was in basketball, where Konrad was already the reigning Foothill League and All-Santa Clarita Valley Player of the Year. Expectations were high entering 2016-17, as three other four-year varsity players joined her in the starting lineup. All was well until Feb. 3 when Canyon High outscored Valencia by 20 in the second half to become the first Foothill League team to knock off the Vikings at Valencia since 2013. “It was heartbreaking,” Konrad said. “It was like, angry. We were determined. No one was sad. It happens. You can’t win every game. We came back more determined, more motivated. Obviously, it showed. “You win some, lose some. But we wouldn’t let that determine rest of the season.” Konrad certainly wasn’t going to let it. She scored 39 points a week later against Hart, then averaged 25.2 points through the CIF-Southern Section Division 1AA playoffs, capping the run with a game-high 23 in a five-point win over rival Canyon in the final. Konrad was named the D1AA Player of the Year. She averaged 21.1 points, 11.3 rebounds, 3.4 assists, three steals and a block per game for the year. She ended her career with a program-best 1,897 points. Mike called her the greatest high school girls basketball player to come out of the Santa Clarita Valley. “She does it all, all the time,” he said. A true statement – in more ways than one.
“I’m always busy,” Konrad said. “I don’t want to not be doing anything.” So, it was on to lacrosse. Konrad, a midfielder who ValenciaVikingsLacrosse.com credited with 28 goals this spring, used it as an opportunity to improve her basketball game: fine-tuning her pivots and screen-setting. She also said that taking on the challenge of two new sports helped prepare her to play basketball at UC Davis next year.
“All three sports had different mental and physical aspects,” she said. “Trying new things gives me a better (mental edge).”
Inside the Ballot Box
1st place vote=5
2nd place vote=3
3rd place vote=1
Former Female Athletes of the Year
2015-16 — Elisa Pierre (Golden Valley)
2014-15 — Abbey Weitzeil (Saugus)
2013-14 — Abbey Weitzeil (Saugus)
2012-13 — Abbey Weitzeil and Samantha Ortega (Saugus)
2011-12 — Tiffini Stone (Canyon)
2010-11 — Faith Anumba (Valencia)
2009-10 — Madison Shipman (Valencia)
2008-09 — Aly Drake (Valencia)
2007-08 — No award given
2006-07 — Jordan Taylor (Valencia)
2005-06 — Shannon Murakami (Saugus)
2004-05 — Shannon Murakami (Saugus)
2003-04 — Alysia Johnson (Canyon)