CARLSBAD — Chances are that before she faces her next opponent, Kamden Maas has already been sizing them up.
And chances are greater still that she’s found out what their weaknesses are, and has figured out how to exploit them before any ball flies over the net.
Her eye for the game of volleyball has come from several years of playing the sport, whether indoors, or on grass, or on the beach.
Maas, 16, credits a fifth grade volleyball class on the blacktop of her then-school for her initial introduction to the game.
It wasn’t long after middle school that she moved to the indoor courts and started playing competitively.
Since then, Maas has become an accomplished player, racking up several notable achievements.
Just this summer alone, Maas, a junior at Carlsbad High School, earned a top spot with the CBVA (California Beach Volleyball Association), having amassed more than 1,500 points. She also made the USA Junior National Team (19-U).
Over the years, Maas has received some volleyball training, including from former professional beach and indoor volleyball player Liz Masakayan.
“I think she gets the game, and she gets what she needs to do,” Masakayan said.
As Maas describes it, one of the first things she looks for when facing an opponent is how they handle the elements. Some of the players, she said, have really big problems with the sun or the wind.
“And then second, I like to see if they have a consistent thing they do all the time that you can be ready for,” Maas added.
That includes how and where they might serve, angles of attack and which of the opponents has the bigger temperament, which can lead to them playing horribly if they get too upset, she explained.
Once she spots that, Mass added, she’ll focus on that player.
Masakayan said that Maas brings an almost coaching-like mentality to her game. It was something, she said, that was always important to Maas. “I know at that age, I wasn’t like that. I mean you had a coach, they told you what to do, and you did it.”
But it’s also that the girl loves to play, Masakayan said, that attributes to Maas’ successes so far. “That’s a huge start with most people her age,” she said.
At 5-feet, 6-inches tall, Mass said it’s her leadership, not necessarily her power, that’s her biggest asset, while on the court.
“I can definitely put pace on the ball when I hit,” she said. “But it’s not enough to make someone fall down…I have a really big personality.
“Whenever I step on the court it’s…like I’m playing other teams. I like to take control of everything and I talk a lot. So sometimes I irritate players.”
During the summer, if she isn’t practicing or in a tournament, she’ll be at the Moonlight Beach volleyball courts where she can join in a pickup game.
The men’s courts, which are almost always in use, are one of Maas’ favorite spots, and also, she said, definitely a challenge.
“You learn different stuff with different types of players you play with,” she said.
“So I don’t like always playing with girls my age because then you just learn the same things over and over again. If you play with college people or even people that were pros…they teach you so many different things.”
And Maas isn’t done learning.
“I am going to college and I am going to play beach volleyball,” she said with certain definitiveness. “I don’t want to throw away my education to play beach volleyball, but I’m going to play and travel on a college team for sure.”
For any aspirations to play professionally, Maas said it would be a dream, but she’ll see where it takes her, she said.
“At the end of college, if I still love the sport as much as I do, then I will; then I will continue on with it,” she added.
If she isn’t as enamored with the game, then she said she won’t pursue it. “I won’t force myself,” she added.