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Tuesday, October 22, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports >  High school sports

Prep volleyball: Multisport star Maisie Burnham leads Liberty volleyball to hot start

UPDATED: Wed., Oct. 2, 2019, 9:48 p.m.

Maisie Burnham (12), center, of Liberty High, goes for a dig against Tekoa/Rosalia during a match Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019. At right is teammate Maizy Feltwell (4). At left is Tekoa/Rosalia’s Christina Ward. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Maisie Burnham (12), center, of Liberty High, goes for a dig against Tekoa/Rosalia during a match Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019. At right is teammate Maizy Feltwell (4). At left is Tekoa/Rosalia’s Christina Ward. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
By Luke Byrnes The Spokesman-Review

The age-old debate of nature versus nurture is a moot point when it comes to Maisie Burnham.

The Liberty High School senior was born to competitive parents and grew up surrounded by competitive siblings. Burnham’s competitive nature appears to be equal parts genetics and environment.

“We’re all very competitive,” Burnham said of her family. “We play (the card game) Canasta and it always gets competitive in some way, whether it comes to the rules or is cheating, someone is at each other’s throats.”

That characteristic has translated into a decorated prep career for Burnham. She was the Northeast 2B South MVP and earned all-state honors in volleyball and basketball last year as a junior while helping the Lancers to third- and second-place finishes in the volleyball and basketball state tournaments, respectively.

“If you could build a student-athlete in a factory, she is it,” Liberty girls basketball coach Chris Colvin said. “I mean, she’s got the total package. She’s a wonderful human being, highly intelligent, humble, a great teammate, great leader, a fierce competitor and then – on top of all that – she’s a tremendous athlete.”

The 6-foot Burnham is committed to play basketball at Eastern Washington next year, but right now she’s focused on helping the Lancers to a volleyball state title.

“She plays basketball the majority of her time in the offseason but even despite that, she’s still a phenomenal volleyball player,” Liberty volleyball coach Kaci Tee said. “She works out and she puts in the time. She’s also that athlete that wants to have the ball in her hands at the end of the game. You know, she wants that set, she wants that dig. But yet, she’s also a really good teammate. She’s very selfless and wants what’s best for the team and not just herself.”

As a sophomore, the outside hitter helped Liberty to its first berth into the state tournament since the 1970s. The Lancers didn’t place but took third in 2018 and are off to a 6-0 this season, with a straight-set win Wednesday over Tekoa-Rosalia.

Talented as Burnham is, however, Liberty’s success in volleyball and basketball haven’t come by her hands alone. Outside hitter Aleena Cook and libero Kendyl Fletcher were both selected to the NE 2B South first team in volleyball. Cook was first-team all-league in basketball, while Fletcher earned second-team honors.

“(Fletcher) is just an invaluable member of our team,” Tee said. “She’s also a senior and she plays volleyball, basketball and track, and excels in all three of them.

“The defense that she plays for our team will be hard to replace. She’s an amazing back-row player.

“And then Aleena Cook is also another senior. She has also committed to play basketball next year in college, but she is an amazing athlete as well.”

That trio of seniors has led the volleyball program to historic heights, but Burnham has definitely been integral to those successes and those of the basketball team.

“Maisie is an incredible leader,” Tee said. “She’s the one that will stay after and help put the nets away. She’s the one that invited all of our freshmen through seniors to her house for a little preseason get-together.

“I feel like the younger girls look up to her. And I think she’s a great role model for the younger girls.”

Burnham’s approach, on and off the court, is worth watching. Along with her athletic accomplishments, she’s an honors student who plans to study accounting in college and, not surprisingly, is a go-getter.

“I always try to give all that I’ve got,” Burnham said. “Whatever it is, I just try to go hard all the time.”

That attitude is not only a display of leadership but is also infectious.

“The effort and energy she puts into whichever season she’s in is a tremendous thing to see in a young person,” Colvin said. “She has an incredible motivation and drive to be successful and is encouraging of her classmates and teammates to do so as well.”

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