From the screech of sneakers on the wooden floor of the gym to the “got it!” repeatedly shouted out, SF State’s women’s club volleyball team is hard at work preparing for their biggest competition of the season.
Beginning Saturday, the team will be competing in the Northern California Collegiate Volleyball League Championships hosted at San Jose State University.
“Our team is a young team, and we are really hoping to do well during the first round,” said head coach Trung Le.
With half of their team consisting of freshmen and sophomores, the players are not as seasoned as their Division II counterparts UC Davis, San Jose State and UC Berkeley.
“Playing club volleyball at SFSU is one of the best decisions I ever made,” said libero and defensive specialist Sara Shantz.
The 18-year-old child and adolescent development major, who has been with the team since last semester, acknowledges that while the team can let their nerves get the better of them, they are more than capable of competing on the same level as their opponents.
Having played competitively since seventh grade, Shantz found that not only did club volleyball present her with a chance to continue playing a sport that she loves but allowed her to establish new friendships.
“It was tough being so far from home and having no real connection to SFSU,” said Shantz, a San Diego native.
Away from home as well, middle blocker and outside hitter Kathy Palencia was drawn to club volleyball for the same reasons.
“It’s good to be on a team,” Palencia said. “I grew up with that.”
Palencia, 19, has played competitively since attending Mt. Whitney High School in her hometown of Visalia, Calif., along with a few seasons on volleyball clubs Sequoia Crush and Side-Out.
The transition from high school athlete to collegiate athlete was not an easy one.
In her freshmen year at SF State in fall 2009, Palencia tried out for the club team but didn’t make the cut.
“It was the worst feeling ever,” Palencia said with a sigh. “I definitely let myself down.”
Devastated by the outcome of her tryouts, the 5-foot-6-inch former cross-country runner was hesitant in repeating the process this past fall. After tossing the idea around for several weeks, she mustered up the strength to give the club one last shot.
When the roster was finalized, Palencia was elated and relieved to find out she had finally made it.
Being able to compete competitively on a collegiate level was both exciting and nerve-wracking for Palencia.
Making her first official appearance for the team against UC Davis, Palencia was not sure what to expect.
“I was so nervous,” Palencia said. “And I totally messed up.”
The team lost to Davis 13-25 and 20-25, affecting Palencia deeply. Feeling like she let not only herself down but also her teammates, the sophomore internalized her feelings of failure and became overly stressed.
“I was kind of hard on myself, but with the support of my teammates they helped me out,” Palencia said.
Since then, Palencia has become more confident in the club.
Both Shantz and Palencia are optimistic about the club’s performance during the last stretch of the season.
Saturday’s games will allow the team to showcase their talents.
“I have all the faith in the world that if we play to the best of our ability, we will be very successful this weekend,” Shantz said.