As a former female competitor, I recognize that women are often an afterthought in the world of athletics. We may not have killer hang-time but we can oooh and aah a crowd with intelligence, determination and my favorite characteristic of female athletes, passion. This year, I will explore the lives of female Cal Poly athletes; on the court/field, in academics and beyond. Readers should learn that female athletes, like their male counterparts, in a figurative yet serious way, have balls.
Jon Stevenson, head coach for the volleyball squad, deems Ali Waller, a junior outside hitter from Cypress, Calif., a “baller.”
“Its definitely a passion of mine,” Waller said about volleyball.
Waller expects a large turnout at games this year due to last season’s success.
“We have long, exciting rallies and we’re very passionate about our games. (Women’s volleyball) is just as competitive as guys’,” Waller said.
In third grade, Waller saw one of her neighbors bumping a volleyball out on the street, asked to join and loved it right away. Waller played in middle school and started playing competitively in ninth grade.
Waller’s club coach in high school was a major inspiration in her life and his advice continues to help her today. Waller also admires American professional beach volleyball player Misty May.
“She is a great athlete who works hard at what she does and she’s just awesome,” Waller said of May.
Last year, just as Waller was establishing herself as an outside hitting force, she fractured her foot and was sidelined for the remainder of the season.
“It was a bummer, but you have to roll with the punches,” Waller said.
Training and strengthening in the off-season combined with her sheer love for the game have re-established the name Waller was making for herself last year as she greatly contributed in the first tournament of the 2007 season at Wichita State.
“She was one of our best hitters last season before her injury, and she is our best hitter again this season,” Stevenson said.
Senior libero Kristin Jackson says that Waller’s comeback is a result of her work ethic.
“Ali is a really hard worker. She is always pushing herself 100 percent at practice,” Jackson said.
Waller is a liberal studies major yet hopes to transfer into history. She has contemplated a career in junior high education.
I asked Waller if she believed she gets the respect she deserves as a female in athletics and she said, “Anyone can respect any athlete because they know how much time goes into what we do.”
Waller admires the fact that female athletes “all care about one another and the success of our teammates.”
Jackson noted that Waller has a kind heart and no patience for animosity amongst her teammates. Waller’s attitude is good for team morale and keeps her fellow players focused on the game.
“I’m really glad that I’ve had her as a teammate,” Jackson said.
Waller enjoys the sense of community that exists between her and other athletes.
She loves her teammates and the game and although she says balancing school and volleyball “can definitely be stressful,” she can’t imagine what she would do with her time were she not a student-athlete.
When Waller is not on the court or in the classroom, she says you can find her “lounging around and soaking up the free time.”
Waller believes that her team can make the final four this year. She said she is going to “work as hard as I can and put forth my best effort,” to make it to that height of the season.
Jackson believes that Waller has a lot of potential to really shine this season.
In terms of volleyball after college, Waller said she plans to take things “one year at a time.”
This year, she urges Cal Poly students to “come out and support girls volleyball and come cheer us on.”