It is easy to see the presence that Sidney Hamaker brings to the volleyball court on game night for Oswego.
But that only tells half the story.
Gary Mosley didn’t need long to find that out. Oswego’s first-year coach said that Hamaker was more than he expected this season – and much more than the towering figure that opponents identified as tops on the scouting report.
“Practice, that’s the part you don’t get to see,” Mosley said. “She is a non-stop workhorse. That engine never idles down. She’s constantly pushing, every single rep, trying to get better. She’s so coachable. Everything we do goes through her.”
Hamaker was indeed the engine that made Oswego go this fall – and drove the Panthers to unparalleled heights.
Oswego won its first 11 matches, best start in program history. The Panthers, going 29-7, smashed a program win record, came a win away from the school’s first volleyball conference title and then won just the program’s fourth regional title – first since 2011.
Hamaker was at the center of it all.
The 6-foot-1 junior outside hitter and Long Beach State commit smashed the single-season school record for kills with 392 and added 209 digs, 46 aces and 24 blocks. A third-year varsity player, Hamaker is the Record Newspapers girls volleyball Player of the Year.
“It’s incredible to see the progress we have made,” Hamaker said. “Looking back, I couldn’t be any prouder.”
Looking back on when he was first hired, Mosley asked two things of his best player. He asked Hamaker to trust him. And he asked her to be coachable.
Mosley couldn’t have asked for a more coachable star to build a team around.
“She has instilled that want to be better,” Mosley said. “Middles, they don’t pass, with her not passing in club and coming in she put in the work ethic to become of our best passers. She really excelled in that area of the game. Earlier in the season you saw teams attacking her, they wanted to try to expose her. As scouting reports changed, they went away from her. That is a credit to her hard work. She just wants to learn to get better.”
Hamaker plays middle for her Sports Performance club team, but on Oswego she was the go-hitter outside. She shrugged off what would appear to be not an easy transition.
“Honestly I feel like the transition from middle to outside is easier than the other way around,” Hamaker said. “All of the balls set to you are higher. Personally, I think it’s easier to get to higher balls than quick ones in the middle. Defense is something I worked a lot on in club. Getting the opportunity to show it in high school ball, it is great.”
“It’s unbelievable how she’s made the move,” Mosley said. “I was here years ago and we did the same thing with another young leader that was part of the program. Hers was a two-year transition before she peaked. I’m not saying Sidney has peaked, but if there is more room for her to grow, everybody look out. She has has grasped that position at a top-notch level in a short time.”
Oswego had a good base to build around this season, with juniors Hamaker, Mia Jurkovic and Ava Flanigan returning, as was senior middle Riley Borrowman.
Hamaker, however, credited the transition to Mosley for helping take Oswego up a level.
“He is brand new and turned the program around – most of it was him,” Hamaker said. “I feel like with the players we had returning, our connection grew from having two years together.
“Coach brought a new perspective. He gave us creativity in practice. We would have practice on Saturdays and he would force us to come in with our own plays that he would let us try to figure out what we needed to work on. He would let us control what we needed to focus on.”
Hamaker is focusing on a desire to take Oswego to even greater heights.
As successful as this season was, there remains unfinished business. Oswego lost out on that first conference title with a loss to Joliet West in the final match, then was upset by Lockport in a sectional semifinal.
“It’s great to see all the progress we’ve made, and exciting for the future,” Hamaker said. “I think for us improving would be creating a faster tempo. With most of our players back, I think we can start right where we left off. We need to work on our tempo and connecting well with everybody.”