CANFIELD - If she had to, Sabrina Mangapora could have relied on a simple coin toss to decide which of her two chosen sports to concentrate on in college.
Mangapora, a graduate of Canfield High School, took a more complicated route in making the call.
"I asked myself what sport would I want to get up at 5 in the morning to practice, and it was volleyball," she said.
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Brookfield’s Jeremy Quinlan, left, and Canfield’s Sabrina Mangapora are the 2013 Tribune Chronicle Senior Athletes of the Year.
Mangapora couldn't have gone wrong with picking volleyball or basketball. She excelled at both sports to the degree that she will go down as one of the best female athletes in Canfield history and will likely join her father, Jim, in the Canfield Hall of Fame.
"She was sort of a coach's dream," ex-Cardinals volleyball coach John Tokash said. "If a coach could have someone they could model, they'd like every player to be like her."
As a result of her accomplishments in both volleyball and basketball, Mangapora has been selected The Tribune Chronicle's Female Athlete of the Year.
The list of awards won by Mangapora is long and impressive. She was named first team Division II All-State in basketball as a junior and senior and was twice the District Player of the Year. Mangapora was a first-team selection to the All-American Conference's American Division All-Star team in her sophomore, junior and senior seasons and was honorable mention as a freshman.
Mangapora also was a two-time All-State selection in volleyball and was the District Player of the Year last season. She was voted the Player of the Year in the All-American Conference's American Division two times.
"She is a phenomenal player," basketball coach Pat Pavlansky said. "She had a great four-year career. She could have played basketball (in college)."
The 6-foot Mangapora will play volleyball at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind. Mangapora, who holds Canfield's career and season records for kills, is an outside hitter with the versatility to play the middle in the front row or in the back row.
Tokash recalled a time when he wanted to remove her from the rotation for one serve to give her a breather. She begrudgingly went along with the call.
"I asked her, 'What do you think?' " Tokash said. "She said, 'I don't want to come out, but you're the coach and I'll do what you want.' She never gave me any lip. She never back-talked and said, 'I don't want to come out.' "
Mangapora began playing basketball at an early age, undoubtedly influenced by her father, who played at Canfield and Kent State University. Although volleyball came along later, she was a quick learner.
"I started playing it in the sixth grade," Mangapora said. "I was at a basketball camp and a friend of my father's approached him and said 'to get her started in volleyball' because I was tall and coordinated. Here I am today. I think it worked out OK."
Beyond being able to get up at 5 a.m. for practice, Mangapora's love for volleyball was an overriding factor in her decision to stick with it at the next level.
"I just like it," she said. "It's a fun sport. I think everyone should try it. It's much more technique than a skill game."
Another reason behind Mangapora's choice of volleyball is that it will fit in better with her academic schedule. A 3.9 student, Mangapora is president of the National Honor Society and a member of the Key Club and 'Y' Teens. She will major in pre-medicine.
"My only suggestion, because she wants to go into the medical field, is that volleyball only covers one quarter," Tokash said. "Basketball covers a couple (quarters). Volleyball is also played more or less on weekends when they don't have classes that much. Volleyball is a means to a goal in life and what you want to do."
Mangapora was a vital cog in leading the Cardinals to a 23-4 volleyball record and a berth in a regional final. The season ended with a loss to eventual state champion Beaumont.
"It was exciting," she said. "I've been playing with the same girls my whole life. My goal was to win a state championship. We couldn't get that done, but we can't look back and say that was disappointing. We won two district titles back-to-back. We've done a lot together."
Ironically, the Cardinals also lost in the regional final to the eventual state champion, Hathaway Brown Blazers, in basketball. The defeat ended a 26-2 season.
Mangapora finished as Canfield's career scoring leader with 1,453 points. She also had about 900 rebounds. Last season Mangapora averaged 20 points and nine rebounds.
"She's a face-up post who can put it on the ground, but she's a tremendous shooter," Pavlansky said. "You had to guard her, but then she would go by you, which made it difficult to guard her.
"She could play any position for us. Against athletic teams we played her at the point. Then we played her at other spots on offense. Anything we asked her to do, she would try."
Mangapora's mind is probably full of great basketball memories, but one in particular stands out.
"In my junior year when we won the district championship I hit the shot at the buzzer to beat West Branch," she said. "That's always what I think of when I think about my basketball career at this moment."
Attending camps and helping younger girls was another fun part about basketball for Mangapora. A part of her will miss the sport.
"I already do," she said. "I just drove with my brother and mom to Cleveland. He's a sophomore and we were taking him to a summer league and watching him. One time the ball bounced out of bounds and I watched it. I looked at my mother and said, 'I want to go in there so bad.' "
Mangapora had multiple college offers in both sports. She visited Temple for volleyball and had St. Bonaventure on her list if she had decided to play basketball. She was sold on Ball State during a visit to the campus during spring break of her junior year.
"My family was supportive throughout the process," she said. "They said you've been blessed with different options. You can't make a wrong choice."
Pavlansky knows that Mangapora would have made it work in basketball if she had chosen that path, but he can't wait to support her in volleyball.
"That's 100 percent her call, and I'm happy for her," Pavlansky said. "When she shows up and plays at Kent State or another school in the Mid-American Conference that's close, hopefully we can go see her play."
Mangapora would gladly accept the support.