"Sports have been a huge part of my life ever since I could walk,” said Olivia Dagnino, a 17-year-old senior at Palo Verde High School (PVHS). “They have taught me so much.”

As a youngster, she was involved with volleyball, basketball, softball and swimming. Dagnino also played flag football and track for a year each, golf for two years and soccer for nine years.

Since becoming a PVHS Yellow Jacket, she has spent three years in junior varsity softball and two in varsity softball, playing first base, shortstop and outfield positions; a year on the swim team; four years in varsity volleyball as right side hitter; and four years in varsity basketball as the point guard and on the wing. She has also served as team captain for both volleyball and basketball in her junior and senior years.

For Dagnino, athletics are as much a part of her daily life as they as are a constant guiding force and teacher. From the beginning, she said, “They opened my eyes to how tough I really am and how I am capable of whatever I put my mind to if I work hard and really want it. I have such a big drive for wanting to be successful in everything I do, and every time I prove to myself that I am stronger than I ever imagined and I can handle whatever is thrown upon me.”

They have also helped direct her behavior and mindset in high school.

“Athletics has taught me how to be a leader on both the courts and on campus,” Dagnino shared. “Being a senior, I try my hardest to be a role model for the underclassmen, and every day I hope that I am inspiring someone who looks up to the upperclassmen.”

But at the same time, she noted, “Sports keep me on my toes. I never really have a break (from athletics), but I don’t mind it. There is nothing I’d rather be doing than participating in the sports I love. Being a part of a sport is like being a part of a big family. You have your teammates, which are like your brothers and sisters, and you support them no matter what and pick them up when they are down, and they do the same to you. Then you have your coaches, which are like your parents — they teach you how to do things, pick you up when you’re down and are always there for you when you’re in need. They also aren’t afraid to tell you when you are doing something wrong.”

With so much gained from this life-long passion, Dagnino said she can’t imagine leaving athletics behind after she graduates from PVHS this spring. She intended to take her love of one particular sport with her into college and aspects of what she has learned about the complex physicality involved in athletics into her future professional pursuits.

“After graduation, I plan to move to San Diego and attend a junior college and study kinesiology to become a physical therapist,” she said, “and hopefully play the sport I’ve been playing and have loved for as long as I can remember: volleyball.”

With such a strong playing roster behind her, Dagnino may also have a good shot at athletic scholarships. “I applied for a good amount of scholarships, and (with) most of them there is a high chance that I may receive them,” she shared, “and, if I do, words can’t even describe how grateful I’d be to know that I earned that money on my own.”

Despite all the new changes that will come into her life after graduation, Dagnino feels secure in her future due to the personal strengths she has learned through athletics, a desire to ultimately return to her hometown and the love and support she has received from her parents while she has found her own path.

“My parents have shaped me to be the women I am today,” Dagnino said. “If it weren’t for them, I don’t know where I’d be today. I can’t thank them enough for the love and support I get from them each and every single day.”

“My plans for the future,” she continued, “are to be successful in what I plan on doing. That’s all I want in my life — to be successful. I also hope to come back to my hometown and coach high school volleyball and maybe basketball. I truly believe I can accomplish all of these things if I believe in myself and continue to work hard every single day of my life.”

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