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Mild student is wild woman on court

Pleasant Grove's Clement enjoys physicality of sport

PLEASANT GROVE — Off the court Sarah Clement comes across as a mild-mannered, easygoing student and musician, but then she steps on the court and she can address her wilder side.

Yes, Clement might be calm, cool and collected at school and at home, but she has a competitive streak that needs an outlet, and that outlet comes in the form of volleyball and basketball.

And the sport that makes it easiest to release that hidden part of her nature is the sport she's been playing for eight years — basketball.

"I like to knock people over, rebound the ball, reach over somebody and grab it out of their hands," said Clement when noting her favorite elements of playing hoops. "In basketball it's a lot easier to take it (competitiveness) out a little on people."

Though basketball allows her more of a physical outlet in what is much more a contact sport, and she's been playing center for nearly half of her life, she also enjoys the other sport that entered her life rather inauspiciously as a freshman less than four years ago.

Clement's older brother talked her into trying out for volleyball even though she'd never played the sport before and the Pleasant Grove team is known for its seasoned players.

Undaunted, the freshman walked into practice for the first time with that brother's volleyball knee pads and a friend.

"I didn't know anything about anything, and it was kind of embarrassing because I didn't have a clue what I was doing," said Clement, looking back on the difficult yet exhilarating experience.

"I kind of wanted to make it and I kind of didn't because I didn't want to be the worst person on the team," she added, noting that the friend who had joined her on the first day of tryouts soon quit, leaving Clement alone in a sea of players who had been playing club volleyball for years, every one of them possessing more experience on the court than she.

But she stuck it out and made the tough squad, started playing club ball herself and sat varsity in only her sophomore year.

And her favorite part of volleyball: "I just love blocking people, especially when it's a hard hit," she said, remarking that she loves to dash that sure-fire kill and bar the hitter from the exhilaration of a solid hit finding the floor.

As her club experience and her high school experience on the volleyball court have been totally different, she's had to adjust to learning two entirely different positions.

During her club season, she plays right side, but during high school until just recently, she's had to play middle blocker.

"Sarah is a true athlete. She uses her height well and has an amazing vertical," said her Pleasant Grove coach Mandi Nuttall, who has always used her at middle because of her exceptional blocking ability. Nuttall added, "She moves so quick laterally and closes just about every block."

But things changed on the Pleasant Grove courts over the past month or so as outside Danica Mendivil went down with a season-ending injury, forcing the entire team to find new positions and achieve high comfort levels with them.

It just so happened Clement's new position is like an old friend. She's now playing on the right side in high school as well.

"I like right side a lot better than middle. I get a lot more chances to hit," and take out any frustrations she might have on the ball.

Clement added one new frustration to her list at a Las Vegas tournament recently when she dove for a ball and her head whiplashed and hit the floor and she chipped a tooth.

"I have to wear a mouth guard now," which is not the easiest thing for her to get used to, but it's worth it because she loves competing on her two courts so much.

She comes by sports naturally, as two of her three older brothers played for Pleasant Grove's basketball team, though neither of her parents excelled in the athletic arena. And her freshman sister Becca is already starting out in both sports as she follows in Sarah's footsteps.

The 6-foot-2 senior isn't limited to volleyball and basketball, however, as her talents include 10 years of playing the violin and a few on the viola. She's in the school orchestra, and she used to dance.

Though it can be tough for some people to picture a 6-foot ballerina, she spent hours on the dance floor in her youth, giving it up only when she decided for herself that she had to choose between dance and volleyball.

Though she stopped dancing her freshman year, she does credit it with some of her athletic ability.

"I think it did help me jump higher. My ankles are really strong," said the girl whose future plans include something that involves either a major or a minor in math.

Since her father, Mark, is a computer science professor at BYU, she comes by the mathematical prowess naturally. And her parents provide a huge support system for her in all aspects of her life as she noted, not only do they show up to all of their nine children's many events, "my mother videos everything."

And though she doesn't truly consider herself a team leader, the worst injury in her athletic career so far has been a chipped tooth, she donned toe shoes for years, and she knows how to wield a bow with precision, the real reason this rather classical young lady loves to get out there and pound things out in the sports of her choice is to get rough, be competitive and feed her hidden wild side.


E-mail: jolsen@desnews.com