By DAN ARRITT     9/14/2015

Devon Chang can already sense major differences between this season and the last.

Not a month into her sophomore year at Santa Margarita and Chang sees the game of volleyball much clearer and the pace feels considerably slower. Even the faces in the crowd don’t appear as numerous as they did last season.

“When I was a freshman, I was getting adjusted to everything,” Chang says. “But, this year, it’s a lot different because I’m used to it and I feel more mature.”

Chang’s not just any underclassman.

She was the only freshman on the all-Trinity League first team last season, earning that honor after helping the Eagles to a 27-7 record and a trip to the second round of the CIF-SS Division I-AA playoffs. She returned this season with a more confident look in her eye and, right off the bat, led the Eagles to the tournament title at the Ann Kang Invitational in Honolulu.

Even though she’s just a sophomore, Santa Margarita coach Katy Daly calls her the “calm of the team.”

“She’s just the driver of this peaceful bus,” Daly says. “When things get a little stressed, or the points are tight, she turns to everyone and says, ‘We’ve got this.’”

Chang is the setter for the Eagles, skillfully placing the ball at just the right spot so her teammates can spike it over the net. Her talents don’t end there, however. She’s also a sturdy blocker, heady server and her cat-like quickness allows her to dig balls most others can’t get near.

“She can put balls away, too,” Daly says.

Anyone who followed Trinity League girls’ volleyball last season probably remembers an outstanding player at Mater Dei with the same last name of Chang. That’s no coincidence—Payton Chang is Devon’s older sister.

Payton played three years at Mater Dei, earning co-MVP of the Trinity League last season and a berth on the Orange County Register all-county first team. Devon opted to attend Santa Margarita because many of her friends are there and the school seemed like a better fit for her academically.

Still, she found herself on the same court as Payton on several occasions last season, including both Trinity League matches, and dreams of one day joining her sister at Stanford.

“That would be really nice,” Devon says.

In the meantime, Devon has plenty of volleyball left to play for Santa Margarita.

Beginning Friday, the Eagles are scheduled to participate in the Dave Mohs Invitational hosted by Edison High School in Huntington Beach. Santa Margarita reached the final of this prestigious tournament last season before losing to Lakewood.

“This tournament is a really good opportunity for us,” Chang says. “We deserved our win in Hawaii and showed that we’re ready for the season and we’re going to be a lot stronger than we were last year.”

The Eagles certainly demonstrated their improvement with the win in Hawaii, toppling Mater Dei in a two-game sweep along the way. Santa Margarita came into this season ranked No. 9 in Division I-AA and Mater Dei was No. 2, but that figures to change, especially if the Eagles can maintain their momentum through the Dave Mohs Invitational.

“We started really strong, we’ve really come together as a team and we’ve starting applying all the things that coach Daly has taught us in practice,” Chang says. “We’re really meshing well and I’m really excited for the season.