Falmouth’s Annika Hester had 329 kills, 161 digs, 47 aces, 14 blocks and 18 assists this season for the Class A champions. Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

FALMOUTH — There was a time when Annika Hester would simply overpower her opponent at the net, slam the volleyball so hard that no one could stop it.

Now, said Falmouth High Coach Larry Nichols, “She knows she can’t do that all the time. So she’s always thinking, ‘What’s the most effective thing to do?’ She knows it’s more about making sure we get the point and not just the flash in the moment.”

Hester, a 16-year-old junior outside hitter, helped unbeaten Falmouth win its second consecutive Class A state title with a 3-1 victory over Scarborough in the championship match. Hester had 11 kills in the final set.

For the season, Hester had 329 kills, 161 digs, 47 aces, 14 blocks and 18 assists. She is our choice as Varsity Maine Volleyball Player of the Year for the second straight year.

“She’s one of those kids who could try any sport and instantly be good at it,” said Yarmouth Coach Jim Senecal. “Don’t get me wrong though. Annika works very hard and has put her time into this sport.  She loves it, and you can tell.”

Hester already has committed to playing at the University of San Diego, which was ranked 20th in the American Volleyball Coaches Association poll heading into a second-round NCAA tournament match late Saturday night. For now, Hester strives to become even better. Last year, she attended a volleyball camp at the U.S. Olympic training center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

“It was such a great experience, those girls were insane,” said Hester, who gave up all other sports once she started playing volleyball in the seventh grade. “I was in awe the whole time, just watching them and getting to play with them.”

She also learned something about herself. “I want to be pushed to the highest level,” she said. “I want to play with people who are better than me.”

In Maine, that’s hard to find at the high school level. So Hester sets goals. “I always try to have something (to work on),” she said, “because if you’re just blindly going out there, you’ll get unfocused and make bad mistakes and create bad habits.

“This year, I’ve been working on keeping my mindset right, not getting frustrated after a misplay. I think as I progress, it’s about being smart and focusing on making good shots, as opposed to just hitting it hard every time.”

That’s exactly what Nichols saw this fall, too. “There were times when everyone (on defense) was in position and the ball goes down and no one can touch the ball,” he said. “When Annika is in the zone, sometimes it doesn’t matter. She is able to find that spot.”

Her best attribute, Nichols said, may be her humility. “She is one of the most giving and supportive kids that I’ve ever met that plays at a level that is really high,” he said. “There’s not a diva bone in her body, which makes everybody better.”

For Hester, that’s just the way volleyball is.

“The whole vibe is so positive,” she said. “It’s like family. Those girls are my best friends and this sport is so much fun, and to hang out with my friends is perfect.”

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