She is the first person in school history to get MVP in women’s volleyball and second student athlete to earn California Collegiate Athletic Association’s MVP honors in any sport.
SF State senior Iris Tolenada has it all.
After a heartbreaking loss to Grand Canyon University in the first round of the playoffs for the SF State women’s volleyball team, Tolenada, 21, ended her senior season with her last award by being named to the All-West Regional Tournament Team.
The 5-foot-8-inch setter and Bay Area native has proven to be an integral part of the squad since her freshman season, winning the CCAA conference Freshman of the Year award.
Fellow teammate and this season’s Freshman of the Year, Meagan Wright, is thankful to have played with Tolenada for her final season.
“I’m so sad she’s leaving, extremely sad,” Wright said. “Iris is a valuable player and she did great things when she was here. We’re really going to miss her.”
Head coach Michelle Patton couldn’t agree more after watching her develop as a player over the past four years.
“It’s been an honor to coach her and push her throughout the last four years,” Patton said. “I know that this was something she really wanted for herself. I’m just proud that she got the recognition.”
Tolenada arrived at SF State with an impressive high school career behind her.
She led Deer Valley High School to the California Interscholastic Federation’s North Coast Section playoff finals for three straight years 2006-08 while receiving MVP honors as a senior and most outstanding player accolades as a junior.
Holding the Deer Valley High School career and single-season record for assists, Tolenada was ready to set her goals high.
She first realized she wanted to play competitively after attending Stanford volleyball camps.
“My first time at this top University camp opened my eyes to a whole new world of competitive volleyball,” she said. “When coaches asked me what my plans were after high school, I knew I had to get my name out there.”
In her first season as a Gator, Tolenada established a new single-season record with 1,254 assists.
“As far as breaking records go, I knew I wanted to break records, but I never knew exactly which ones I would break,” she said.
After being recruited her junior year by SF State, Tolenada turned down opportunities to play for top CCAA teams Chico State and Cal State Stanislaus.
Her ultimate decision to attend SF State was because of its proximity to her family, who support her by attending every game.
“For Iris, there is no excuse not to be at her games,” Tolenada’s parents, Ingemar and Janet Tolenada, said via email. “She is such a hardworking athlete and we are proud to watch her always do her best. We know she looks upon us to draw some strength when things are not going well.”
Tolenada credits her parents’ support as her biggest motivation to succeed.
“They are the most supportive parents I could ever ask for and I couldn’t be more proud of them,” Tolenada said. “They support not only their kids, but their kids’ teammates as well. It was always great to hear my teammates ask me if my parents are coming to the games because I know they appreciate them, too.”
With the 2012 season over and her volleyball career at SF State ending on a high note, Tolenada is optimistic about her future and hopes to share her love for volleyball after graduation.
“Maybe after I graduate I will look into playing overseas — it’s always been something I’ve been interested in because I can’t get enough of volleyball,” Tolenada said. “Right now I am coaching high school girls’ club volleyball. It’s my first time as an assistant coach and I’m extremely excited to help other players that are motivated to reach a higher level of volleyball.”
Beyond coaching and possibly playing overseas, she also plans to attend graduate school for physical therapy.
Tolenada is grateful that her last season was her best.
“This is the dream senior year I could ever ask for because I am blessed with the best family, team and support system,” Tolenada said. “I tell everyone that dreams do come true and my senior year is enough proof for me.”