Rick’s Sports Corner: Tawnie Ohrt Excels Via Brainpower, Skill

Burroughs senior volleyball standout will concentrate on her studies at Pasadena City College and then transfer.


By Rick Assad

With experience comes a certain amount of wisdom and for Burroughs High senior Tawnie Ohrt, the outside hitter, gained a great deal during her four years on the girls’ volleyball team.

One thing Ohrt gathered was how and where to hit the ball.

“The hit where I would go near the net or down the line was always a placement ball,” she pointed out. “While I did have strength behind my hits, I learned that placement of the ball was way more important.”

Power and finesse usually equaled a point for the Bears, who went 14-16 and 8-6 for fourth place in the Pacific League this season but were swept by West Ranch 3-0 in the CIF Southern Section Division IV opening round of the playoffs.

Ohrt, who decided to put off attending Arizona State University after building up a 4.0 grade-point average, will attend Pasadena City College and major in business administration and management, and then transfer, knew the formula for success.

“I learned to place the ball where the opponents would not get it. Being a strategic player was better for me, as I don’t have the height to be able to hit the ball hard and down as consistently and well as I had wanted to,” she noted. “While I did get a lot that I was able to slam down, it was harder for me to do. The smart plays were the best option for my team to win the point.”

As a floor leader, Ohrt, who averaged nine kills a match with a 1.8 passing average and was a two-time league champion, helped the Bears carve out a 17-5 mark and 13-0 in league for first place as a sophomore, but who stumbled across three sets to Mission Viejo in the Division III first round, eventually took on more responsibility.

Tawnie Ohrt was a four-year player on the Burroughs girls’ volleyball team who stood out on the court and in the classroom. (Photo by Austin Gebhardt)

“I was captain of the team [senior season]. My role was to be able to pick up my teammates and keep them up. I was there beginning and during games to talk in the huddles,” said Ohrt, who was an all-league second team selection as a sophomore. “My role was to keep the team on track and make sure everyone is putting their fair share of work and effort in.”

Ohrt was also a helpful and keen listener and when she offered advice, it was sound.

“I was also always there for any of my teammates to talk to about anything. I also set goals for my team before games to help them focus as well,” she said. “I played in both the front row and back row, which allowed me to try and lead with my playing as well. I tried to always be my best for my teammates because I knew we all needed each other.”

It’s possible that Ohrt could have been a two-sport athlete, but the physical and mental challenges were a tough task.

“I actually played softball as well from the age that I was five to my sophomore year. I decided overall that it was my time to focus on volleyball, because playing both sports at the same time was extremely physically demanding and I found myself dreading going to softball practice,” she admitted. “I knew that as an athlete, I wanted to be all in or not at all, and knowing my head wasn’t fully in softball, it was most fair to my coaches and myself to focus on the sport I was more willing to put everything into.”

Ohrt then added: “My coaches even told me they physically saw me happier on the court rather than on the field, and I knew I made the right decision,” she offered. “If there was no volleyball, I would’ve definitely stuck  with softball because that’s what my dad wanted me to play and it’s another fun team sport to me.”

Ohrt’s choice of playing volleyball was finalized, and it turned out that she made the correct decision.

“I began to play the sport of volleyball when I was around nine, in a parks and recreation league. I decided to just try it out because at the age I was experimenting with many sports,” she said. “I wanted to be an athlete. I was just figuring out which sport was the one. From there, I found some natural talent and love within the court and decided to start playing club volleyball. After that, my volleyball journey took off.”

Longtime Burroughs girls’ volleyball coach Edwin Real saw Ohrt blossom into an excellent outside hitter.

“I have been lucky to see Tawnie grow as a person and student-athlete, since she has been on my varsity team for four years,” he said. “She has shown great dedication to the program and it carries over to the classroom, as she has maintained a 4.0 grade-point average during the volleyball season.”

The pace and quick-thinking that a volleyball player requires seemed to came naturally for Ohrt.

Tawnie Ohrt (left) celebrating with a teammate during a girls’ volleyball match. (Photo by Austin Gebhardt)

“Some things I found most enjoyable about volleyball was the speed of the game and the adrenaline rush that came from the game. Focus and discipline were key in the game, and that’s something I loved working on for myself as a person off the court as well,” she said. “The speed of the game helped to keep me focused, because as soon as you lose focus, you blink, and the game is over and not in your favor. I loved the adrenaline knowing that the game could be flipped at any time, helping to keep everyone engaged and working hard the entire game.”

Being goal oriented is something Ohrt used to her advantage.

“I always set goals for myself. I always wanted to grow as an athlete and volleyball helped me a great amount in doing that. I would set different types of goals, ones for the game and ones for the season,” she said. “The goals I would set per game would be attainable goals, such as getting to a specific amount of kills or aces, or passing a specific stat of passing. The goals I would set for a season would usually be more mental, such as simply getting better at my communication or staying more focused mentally. These goals and focusing on them helped me daily to grow as an athlete and perform better within myself. If I didn’t reach one of my goals, I would simply tell myself to work harder.”

Game days were fun because Ohrt could see the results immediately.

“On game days, I usually would first think about who we were playing that day. I wouldn’t look into any of their stats or play style because focusing on that too much rather than on our own game and how we usually play can mess us up,” she said. “We would wear game day shirts to school, allowing us from a very early time to get mentally focused knowing it was game day. I would usually grab myself a sandwich to eat before the game to give myself nutrients that would get me energized for the entire game. I found that if I ate sugar or had a sweet drink before a game, it would give me a lot of energy but would sometimes cause me to “crash” in the middle of a game.”

Ohrt continued: “I would stay away from laying down or taking naps close before games because it would drain all my energy and I wouldn’t be able to gain it back in time for the game,” she said. “I always got on the court warming up early before a game, which helped me to focus up more and helped my muscles be more ready. I knew I was ready for game time when my muscles and my mind were completely relaxed.”  

Ready for action and always thinking on the court was something Tawnie Ohrt did instinctively. (Photo by Austin Gebhardt)

Ohrt, like so many, would get especially excited for the rivalry match versus Burbank.

“I think that the matches that always stand out to me are all of the Burbank versus Burroughs games. Burroughs always beat Burbank, but the rivalry was still there and the energy that came from the stands was one of the best feelings ever,” she said. “There’s something different about hometown rivalry games in the best way possible. Those games were the games where not only our team always all came together, but our school as well.”

Ohrt added: “The rivalry games were always the ones where students were in the most attendance as well, making it fun to see all of my classmates in the stands,” she continiued. “The adrenaline for all those games brought a feeling I would never be able to put into words. The games were always fierce and the ultimate test of pressure from the stands.”

In a few months, Ohrt will be off to college, and will begin a separate journey.

“Looking back on my career, I think the biggest thing I’m going to remember are my teammates. Not only the ones from my senior season, but the ones especially from my freshman and sophomore year,” she said. “They helped me to grow as an athlete, and I loved having someone to look up to for support at any time. I’ll never forget the friendships I made from volleyball and the way every one of my teammates were always there to have my back. I’ll never forget the energy and passion that came from team huddles, whether the game was close or we were down by a lot or up by a lot.”

Ohrt added: “My teammates have made such an impact on me as a person and as a player and I will remember every single one of them,” she said.

The best lesson volleyball taught Ohrt is that there are good days and bad days.

“Losing in volleyball helped me a lot in my development as a person. I learned that sometimes things don’t go the way you want them to go, and you just have to move on,” she said. “I learned how important staying disciplined in your head was in any situation, and how to stay calm in stressful situations. Also, my family was always there for me after any game, win or lose. I learned that no matter what happens my family will always be there, in my day-to-day life as well. Volleyball has taught me many great lessons and I will forever be grateful for it.”

    Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center