The defensive specialist gives opposing hitters fits trying land a kill. She's done it well enough to earn a preferred walk-on spot at Gonzaga.

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The bigger the swing, the better the satisfaction.

So, come on, take your best shot at Alisa Kim.

Because the tiniest athlete on North Creek High School’s volleyball team thrives on making the most titanic defensive plays.

“Digging the really good hitters is just so satisfying,” said Kim, a 5-foot-2 senior libero who is a key reason for the Jaguars’ success as just a second-year program. “A really good hitter thinks they’re going to hit a really hard ball at you, and you just dig it and it doesn’t go down. They’re like, ‘Whoa, now what do I do, because she’s not letting me hit the ball on the floor?’ ”

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Teammate Gabby Kepley, a 5-foot-10 hitter who earned all-KingCo first-team honors as a junior last season, knows the feeling from some practice drills.

“When I’m hitting against Alisa, I’m like, ‘OK, I have to be strategic about this, because you know she’s going to get everything up,’” said Kepley who often sees frustration on opponents’ faces.

North Creek, which opened in Bothell last fall without seniors, is ranked No. 7 in the latest Washington State Coaches Association Class 4A poll. The Jaguars share the KingCo lead at 5-1 after suffering their first league loss Wednesday against Issaquah, which is 5-1 along with Eastlake, a team North Creek swept last week.

They placed second to No. 2 Lake Stevens at the Kent Classic last month — their only other blemish on a 12-2 record — and hope for a rematch in Saturday’s Bearcat Invitational in Monroe. Their ultimate goal is to qualify for the state tournament in Yakima after a disappointing KingCo tournament last year, when they came in as the No. 4 seed and were knocked out in the first round.

Still, it was a successful season that exceeded many people’s expectations.

“I think we proved a lot of teams wrong, that we weren’t just going to be this team that they could easily beat, being the first year with no seniors,” said Kim, who earned second-team honors in the All-KingCo voting — and might have gotten the first-team nod if not for missing four matches with severe shin splints, according to coach Richard Abiador.

Kim, who has accepted an offer for a preferred walk-on spot at Gonzaga, exploded onto the KingCo scene as a sophomore at Bothell, amassing a school-record 586 digs and helping the Cougars place sixth at state. She started playing volleyball in second grade, following in the footsteps of her older sister, Aliah.

Her height helped dictate the decision to play libero, but she is passionate about the position.

“I just love being aggressive in the back row,” said Kim, who is averaging better than five digs per set this year and is an effective server. “A lot of the hitters get the glory I guess for hitting it hard and scoring the points, but I just love making them look good, getting the ball up and allowing them to keep hitting and keep scoring points.”

Her competitive nature helps, too.

“She has a tremendous love for the sport and an extreme desire to win,” Abiador said, adding that her foot speed, anticipation and high volleyball IQ also set her apart.

Kepley said Kim’s drive helps inspire her, on and off the court.

“Alisa is one of the most driven people I know,” she said. “She has a crazy, insane work ethic.”

And a will to get a hand on every ball.

“She goes all-out for everything,” Kepley said. “No matter if she thinks she can get there or not, she’s on the floor getting touches. I don’t know anybody else who can do what she does. She just lays out for everything. She’s definitely a force to be reckoned with.”