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There was a time in sports when a utility player was someone who could do multiple things and play multiple positions to fill in.

Sharyland Pioneer’s Aleena Zuniga is The Monitor’s 2023 All-Area Volleyball Utility Player of the Year. (Andrew Cordero / Special to The Monitor)

But, that utility player would usually lacked something that the starter had – either on offense or defense.

That definitely isn’t the case with Sharyland Pioneer sophomore Aleena Zuniga. Listed as a setter is a little devious. She’s a hitter, blocker, defender, and by season’s end, a vocal leader who guided the Diamondbacks to a 38-7 overall record and 15-3 in District 31-5A.

“Aleena started leading by her actions as the year progressed,” head coach Laura Cavazos said. “And when she started hitting the ball, she brought it hard.”

Zuniga finished second on the team in assists (605), splitting time with senior Tera Schumacher (659) in the 6-2 rotation. She was also third in aces, third in digs and third in blocks. while hitting at a .294 clip.

Those numbers, however, are a little deceiving since Zuniga started the season getting a feeling of what her role was on a very disciplined squad. Midway through, it was obvious that her role was a lot of everything – and she did exactly that.

One of her biggest highlights came in a 3-2 win over Laredo Alexander where she tallied 16 kills, two aces, and a game high 14 digs and 25 assists. She eclipsed the 20-assist mark in nine of the Diamondbacks final 18 matches and eight times ended a match with 10 or more kills.

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