It was October of 2013 when the Xavier College Prep girls’ volleyball team became the first Arizona high school team to win the Platinum Division crown in the prestigious Nike Tournament of Champions.
The Platinum brackets are filled by those teams that advance through pool play to earn the right to compete at the top level, and some of the best teams in the country battle it out in that division.
Xavier beat three out-of-state teams, including national power St. Josephy’s Academy from St. Louis, which won the Nike TOC the year before. And the Gators went undefeated through six games to claim the Platinum title.
Leading the offensive attack for Xavier, which was the No. 3-ranked team in the state, was a young sophomore outside hitter named Khalia Lanier. She was instrumental in the rally Xavier had to muster in the final set of the championship game to come back from an 0-9 deficit to deny St. Joseph’s a repeat of its 2012 title. Lanier led her teammates that weekend by contributing 17 kills and 10 digs – and showing why she would soon become one of the most heavily recruited players in Arizona.
Most of the top teams in the country came calling on the player rated this year by PrepVolleyball.com as the No. 1 recruit in the nation, but she ultimately chose to attend the University of Southern California. It was PrepVolleyball that also named her National Sophomore of the Year as she began to register on college recruiters’ radar, and the same year she was selected as azcentral.com Big School Player of the Year in Arizona.
Desert Vista High School kept Xavier from winning this year’s Division I state title, just as the Thunder did when they won the 2014 championship by beating Xavier in the finals. But Lanier piled up 32 total kills in this year’s title match to keep her team in contention for four sets against a team loaded with D-I commits and ranked No. 1 in the country by MaxPreps.
But Lanier’s senior year has still ended with a coveted trophy. The 6’2″ outside hitter has been selected as this year’s Gatorade National Player of the Year.
Despite missing 11 games this season with an ankle injury, Lanier posted 496 kills, 324 digs, and 28 service aces in her senior campaign. Her hitting percentage was .438.
And still another impressive stat: she has maintained a 4.21 weighted GPA while keeping up with a year-round commitment to her sport. That’s an important element to consideration for the POY award, which uses a number of factors, besides athletic production and impact, in making a final selection. Each winner has to demonstrate high academic achievement, exemplary personal character, sportsmanship, and community leadership that includes volunteer contributions.
She donated her time in the summer of 2014 working nine days in an orphanage in Komga, South Africa, and here at home works on behalf of the Desert Mission Food Bank, which provides emergency assistance to help families in north Phoenix.
The talented teen has lived a lifetime in the shadow of her famous father, NBA hall-of-famer Bob Lanier. But she’s about to embark on a college career that will no doubt bring her plenty of her own attention.