All-Empire small schools volleyball player of the year: Alex Farber

By PETER FOURNIER

FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

What started as a “trend” in fifth grade morphed into a passion that takes up most of Alex Farber’s life outside of school these days: Volleyball.

The Anderson Valley High junior and 2015 All-Empire Small Schools Girls Volleyball Player of the Year picked up the game as a hobby she played with one of her best friends and turned it into something to which she dedicates most of her time on and off the court, with the goal of improving her game.

“I was so floored and excited that I got (the All-Empire honor),” she said. “Coming from such a small school … especially because I’ve worked so hard. Every day in practice I’m trying to get better, I’m trying to play better, so it’s really nice to be appreciated for my effort.”

Anderson Valley High junior Alex Farber. (John Burgess / The Press Democrat)

Anderson Valley High junior Alex Farber. (John Burgess / The Press Democrat)

Farber helped lead Anderson Valley to back-to-back North Coast Section Division 6 titles in 2012 and 2013, and back to the championship game in 2014, where they lost to San Francisco Waldorf.

She also led the charge when Anderson Valley made a visit to the very first CIF state volleyball championship — currently exclusive to NorCal high schools only — and fell short in the title game in a five-set tiebreaker to S.F. Waldorf.

“We were so close,” Farber said. “It was so nerve-racking. My heart was pounding the whole time.

“It was so exciting, just to know we were playing at that level. We played really well, I think, coming against a team like that — all of them were taller than I am.”

Farber started playing volleyball in elementary school with one of her best friends — whom she credits for getting her more involved in the sport — and by middle school, she knew there weren’t any other sports she wanted to play.

“I knew by seventh grade that was the sport for me,” she said. “Everyone wanted me to play basketball because I was tall, but I wasn’t feeling it.”

The 5-foot-10 Farber started her high school career as an outside hitter, but transitioned to middle blocker when first-year coach Alyssa Schafer switched the team to an offensive-minded approach, a change from former coach Michael McDonald’s defense-first preference.

The switch was one of the bigger challenges of the 2014 season.

“She taught me how to do quick sets, she taught me a little more about blocking this year,” Farber said. “Getting her perspective is really important too.”

The junior is enjoying the change.

“That’s the best location for a blocker, best location for a tall person,” Farber said. “There’s different aspects from each one. If you’re outside, you have a little bit more leverage, you can come from farther off the court to get a good hit, but if you’re in the middle, you have full range, you can hit any kind of shot you want … it’s a really tough position. It’s a lot of running.”

Schafer noticed her footwork from the start and wanted to see her swing from the middle. The coach knew “this was going to be a challenge for her, but she never once told me no.”

“After the first time I see her hit a middle ball, that was where she was going to hit the rest of the season,” Schafer said.

The coach said Farber’s biggest challenge was mental.

“Where she ended up in comparison from where she started was just a great transformation and it was really rewarding to watch,” the coach said.

McDonald, the former Anderson Valley coach, said Farber was an “adequate” player when she started as a freshman, but that’s clearly changed.

“Alex understands the whole game. She understands you need to be a complete player,” he said. “She’s probably the hardest-working player in the gym every day.”

Farber has expressed interest playing at the college level once she finishes her senior campaign.

“You learn a lot through playing,” she said. “You just don’t learn things about the sport. You learn things about who you are. I think people get that from all sports they play. They learn new things about themselves, they learn life skills.”