Southern California is known for all the stars and athletes. Staples Center had Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal and the Lakers. The Dodgers had Mike Piazza and the Kings had Wayne Gretzky and Luc Robitaille. California also has three-time collegiate and AVP champion Kerri Walsh. We can add one of our own to this list: rising athlete Kayla Neto.
While there are differences between Walsh and Neto’s paths to collegiate greatness, there are many similarities that mirror each other’s game. The comparisons to Kerri Walsh were no more apparent than in the five set win against UC Irvine when Neto put the Titans on her back and lead them to victory.
Neto ended up with 20 kills and 20 digs. She followed that up two nights later with 20 kills and 19 digs in a four set victory against Long Beach State. Neto concluded with 100 kills and 40 digs. While enjoying both these victories, fans could tell they were witnessing someone special and very similar to Kerri Walsh.
Neto and Walsh both grew up in Northern California towns. Walsh is from Saratoga, Calif., while Neto grew up in Clarksburg, Calif. They both went to a Catholic high schools. Walsh went to Archbishop Mitty High School, and Neto went to Christian Brothers High School. Neto led the Falcons to a CIF Championship as a senior. Walsh won multiple school honors as a senior.
From there, both players went on to highly respected collegiate careers. Walsh went to Stanford University. Walsh and Neto both were individually named All Freshman Player of the Year. Walsh led the Cardinals in kills her freshmen year with 521 and her junior year with 373. Neto was second on the Titans with 305 kills her freshman year.
Walsh’s freshman year numbers were: 521 kills, 137 errors, 1042 total attempts, .369 attack percentage, 113 assist, 47 service aces, 9 service errors, 309 digs, 14 solo blocks and 105 assisted blocks. Neto’s freshman year numbers were: 305 kills, 14 assists, 85 digs, 97 blocks, .319 percentage and 21 aces.
Looking at their final numbers of their careers, Walsh ended with 1553 kills, 1285 digs, 502 blocks, and a hitting percentage of .358 while at Stanford. Neto’s final numbers as a Titan were 1628 kills, more than 800 digs and 306 blocks.
Neto’s four-time All American selection even rivals Walsh’s Olympic teammate Misty May-Treanor, who attended Long Beach State from 1995-1998.
Walsh and Neto gave flair and excitement to their respective collegiate careers. With both enjoying multiple awards and accolades, they brought heart and athleticism every time they stepped onto the court.
With Kerri Walsh’s career is already written culminating by her third gold medal in beach volleyball this past summer in the London Olympics. Kayla Neto’s collegiate career has come to a close at Cal State Fullerton. With Neto passing Susan Herman and Brittany Moore on the all time kills list with 1628. She also topped the all time points list as well.
The facts show that both their career paths have mirrored each other. It could even be argued that Kayla Neto could be compared to Kerri Walsh. Only time will tell if Neto takes the jump like Walsh and competes for either on the professional or Olympic volleyball level.
Whatever she decides, if last Saturday’s game at Cal State Northridge happened to be her last game playing volleyball, then we saw a special player for the last time at CSUF.