Sage Hill School junior volleyball player Kekai Whitford is the Daily Pilot High School Athlete of the Week. (Don Leach, Daily Pilot / September 25, 2013)

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"She just loves the competition. She's one of the most competitive players we've ever had. She loves to fight."

Whitford truly is all about the team. She said she gives a lot of credit to Sage volleyball's captains, including senior liberos Allie Mowrey and Claudia Noto and junior setter Maddy Abbott. Noto also plays lacrosse while Mowrey, like Whitford, is a standout soccer player. Both were first-team All-Academy League selections last year.

On the pitch, Whitford also has earned Daily Pilot Newport-Mesa Dream Team honors each of the last two years. She played goalie her sophomore year because the team didn't have one, and provided memorable moments in the Lightning's CIF wild-card win at Riverside Norte Vista. Whitford scored the game-tying goal in the 79th minute, before making three saves in the ensuing shootout won by the Lightning.

There's that versatility again.

"There's probably three or four — or eight — other sports that she would excel at," Thomassen said. "She'd be a good basketball player, she'd be an amazing track athlete. Her athleticism is pretty obvious. You can tell, just in the way she plays, that she's got a lot of power."

Sage (12-4), which opened league with a sweep of Calvary Chapel Downey on Tuesday and another sweep of Whitney on Friday, wants to take back the Academy League title. In the way are Crean Lutheran and St. Margaret's, teams ranked No. 4 and 5, respectively, in Division 3-A.

If the Lightning can do it, they'll rely on plenty of plays by their own personal Bo Jackson.

"Wow, great compliment," Whitford said upon hearing about Jackson and her coach's comparison. "I really enjoy sports. I'm not the best at basketball, but if someone wants to play, I'll go try to shoot a basket. I'll probably miss, but I'll try. I've grown up doing something every afternoon, being active a lot. I think that definitely makes a difference, how I grew up and my personality."

Jackson's autobiography was simply titled, "Bo Knows Bo."

Kekai definitely knows Kekai.

Kekai Whitford

Born: Aug. 8, 1997

Hometown: Costa Mesa

Height: 5-foot-7

Sport: Volleyball

Year: Junior

Coach: Dan Thomassen

Favorite food: Spaghetti

Favorite movie: "Blue Crush"

Favorite athletic moment: Helping Sage Hill girls' volleyball win the CIF Southern Section Division 4-AA title in 2011.

Week in review: Whitford had a combined 45 kills and 46 digs as Sage Hill, ranked No. 1 in CIF Southern Section Division 3-A, earned five-set victories over Beckman and JSerra.