The UC San Diego women’s volleyball team opens the 2006 season hosting the Triton Invitational by Courtyard by Marriott on August 24-26 in RIMAC Arena. UCSD looks to improve on its 19-8 record of last season after losing just one senior and gaining a stellar incoming class. All-CCAA standout and Academic All-District VIII Nicole Courtney recently took time to discuss her summer and the upcoming season on the women’s volleyball team.
Q- How did you spend this summer?
COURTNEY- I worked at several volleyball camps and coached all over the country and our UCSD camps. I traveled with my teammates as I went with Rebecca (Bailey) to Washington, Maryland with Brianna (Koche) and Alaska with Lauren (Chiodini) and Rebecca. We also had time to explore the cities. In Alaska, we had a free day and were able to go crabbing, hiking and kayaking. It was a lot of fun. I also worked out and went to the beach when I had time.
Q- This is your fifth-year of school. Was there a point last year when you were deciding if you were going to be playing this year?
COURTNEY- Yes. It came down to whether or not my parents would help me out with tuition. That was the only thing. I definitely wanted to play and wasn’t ready to get a real job.
Q- This is head coach Tom Black’s second season. How do you feel about where the team is at, opposed to last year at this time?
COURTNEY- We have a lot more talent to begin with this year... it’s nice to have that to start the year off. We are held to the same standards as last season, but I think we are more prepared to meet them. Last season we made a few mistakes and we are not going to let them happen this year.
Q- What do you consider the strengths of this year’s team?
COURTNEY- We have a very strong second team pushing our starters. I guarantee that the starting lineup will not be the same for every game. Teammates are battling for position and I feel that is a strength because we will be pushing each other to get better. In my first year here, there were definite starters and a second team. At times back then, I didn’t feel that everyone could contribute. On this team, everyone is contributing.
Q- Which newcomers have had strong practices this year?
COURTNEY- I am really impressed with Sylvia (Schmidt). She is a middle on this team because she has to be. She has really stepped into that roll and hits the ball hard. Also, Elaine (Chen) will be battling for the starting position at setter.
Q- In a word, can you describe your teammates on the court?
COURTNEY- Intense. Everyone always wants to win and we are not ok with losing. Last year, a downfall for us was that we were all playing individually, not together as a unit. This year we have the mind set of a team of 19 student-athletes going against the oppponent.
Q- After attending UCLA for two years, what were some factors in deciding to attend UC San Diego?
COURTNEY- I was just going insane without playing a sport. I played softball since I was five, and volleyball since high school. Not being physically active, not being a part of the team chemistry and not being able to compete was tough on me. Anyone on the team knows that I am a competitor and I hate to lose... in anything. When we went to Alaska, it was a competition to see who caught the most crabs. Not being able to let that competitive drive out, was driving me crazy.
I am from San Diego and always wanted to play volleyball here. I decided to transfer to UCSD and walked-on.
Q- Is there a part of your game that you really worked hard on this off-season?
COURTNEY- Just general strength. I am on the small side for my position on this team. I need to be able to hit the ball harder. I’ve worked on my upper body strength.
Q- What do you plan on doing with your Ecology, Biology and Evolution major?
COURTNEY- I am planning to enter the teacher education program to get my teaching credential and teach high school biology. Last year as part of my curriculum, I taught high school biology classes. I enjoy coaching too. A combination of the two would be perfect.
Q- What do you enjoy outside of volleyball?
COURTNEY- I love hanging out at the beach and just being outdoors. Alaska was a dream trip for me. I never thought I would be able to go there. The hiking was unbelievable. I love hiking, camping and being outside.
Q- Does this year’s team do a lot together off the court?
COURTNEY- There are about 14 players living in the dorms right now... it is usually about six or seven. It’s nice to have everyone living together for the first month and a half before school. We have muddy-buddy nights. That is chex-mix with chocholate and peanut-butter, not good for us. We go to Chipotle about once per week and go to the beach together.
Q- How has this coaching staff helped you as a player?
COURTNEY- I really respected Duncan (McFarland), but I think Tom Black will be more successful because he pushes us so hard and holds us to such high standards. I am a fifth-year senior and he is still working with me on changing some things. I felt that with Duncan, he was happy with what he had and let the players play. Tom is always pushing us to get better in some way.