Katie Hooper has produced an impressive track record at Burbank High over the course of the last four years. When a team has Hooper on its roster, success seems assured.
During her freshman and sophomore seasons, Hooper was the starting goalkeeper for the Burbank girls' soccer team, helping it attain postseason berths both years. During her sophomore campaign in 2010, she was part of a team that stayed in contention for the Pacific League championship until the final regular-season match. Although the Bulldogs lost to eventual champion Crescenta Valley, Burbank placed second in league and advanced to the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division II playoffs.
As a standout softball player at the school, Hooper has earned All-CIF, All-Area and all-league accolades during her three seasons with the Bulldogs, helping them to the playoffs all three years. In addition, she was a driving force on the 2012 team that rolled to the CIF quarterfinals for the first time in two decades and placed second in the Pacific League.
"Success does not come without hard work," Burbank softball Coach Nicole Drabecki said. "Katie is determined, focused and has the desire to do whatever it takes. It takes a mentally tough person to work to their highest ability, every single day, no matter how tired you are and no matter how hot it is — she will reach that level.
"She is a great worker, she gives 100% all the time and it takes that to be the best."
Hooper's successful influence has arisen again this fall with the Burbank girls' volleyball team. A senior outside hitter, Hooper is a member of a squad that is in the midst of a historic season. The Bulldogs are undefeated with a sparkling 7-0 record in non-tournament matches. More importantly, they are also perfect in league with a 5-0 mark.
With defending league champion Burroughs' 25-22, 27-25, 33-31 loss to Arcadia on Thursday, Burbank finds itself alone in first place in the Pacific League. That is unfamiliar territory for the Bulldogs, who haven't won a league title in 37 years.
"Winning a league title is on everybody's mind," Hooper said. "That is something that is very important to us. We realize that it's been a really long time since we've won a league title, so that is a really big goal for all of us."
The Bulldogs took a major step in that direction with a three-game sweep of Arcadia in a league contest Sept. 18. It was the first time Burbank notched a win against the Apaches since joining the Pacific League in 2006
Burbank will have a chance to square off against its cross-town rival when it takes on host Burroughs at 6 p.m. Thursday. The last time the Bulldogs defeated the Indians was on Nov. 6, 2008, when Burbank was victorious in three games.
The Bulldogs came into the season after losing just one senior to graduation last year. Hooper said that experience, coupled with fluid team chemistry and a group of players who are focused on winning a title, has contributed to the Bulldogs' early success.
"I think that team chemistry is very important," she said. "We also have some very good players on this team. We go out and try and play our game and we want the other team to make the mistakes. And this team plays hard every single game. Every player does an exceptional job for us."
Hooper is not the only accomplished player on the Burbank squad under Coach Sarah Brown. Senior libero Stefanie Lin, senior middle blocker Stephanie Eskander, senior setter/opposite Tyler Brooks, senior opposite Jamie Gonzalez and senior middle blocker Sharon Youn are among a group that has contributed greatly to the squad's success.
Brown said Hooper brings an intensity and a quest for perfection to the team that rubs off on other players.
"She is definitely hard on herself," Brown said. "She is a competitor, so she wants to everything that she can to win and she does everything she can to be on the court, and that's just something that I just can't teach. She is that passionate about what she's doing, and she's been that way since was a freshman."
Eskander, who has known Hooper since they were in seventh grade, has competed with and against her friend over the years. She said that although Hooper can sometimes be intense and spirited, those emotions come from a good place.
"With the way she can be intense, everyone understands that she is aggressive because she wants the best for the team," Eskander said. "That's the way she is because she cares."
Lin said Hooper's leadership abilities and her propensity to motivate teammates are what makes her a special athlete.
"I just love playing alongside Katie," Lin said. "She is always energetic and she always pumps me up. I can depend on her for energy and I can depend on her to be there for not only me, but for the rest of the team."
Hooper, who gave up soccer following her sophomore year, has been able to succeed in volleyball and softball despite undergoing major shoulder surgery in the summer prior to her junior year.
"I had to have surgery," Hooper said. "I just hurt so bad every time I threw the ball."
She was able to rehab and enjoyed a wildly successful junior softball season in the spring, batting .467 with 42 hits, 39 runs batted in, 11 home runs and 45 runs scored. As a sophomore in 2010, Hooper earned Division II All-CIF honors after batting .539 with 48 hits, 45 RBI, 32 runs scored and nine home runs.
Although playing volleyball is important to Hooper, she is hoping to compete in softball in college. She said she has several recruiting trips scheduled to Division I colleges for softball and hopes to fulfill her dream of playing on the collegiate level.
But softball season is still a long way away. For now, Hooper wants to concentrate on volleyball, and help in any way she can to bring the program its first league championship since 1975.
"That is the most important thing right now," she said. "This is something that we are all working very hard for. We want to make it happen."