One of just three players to start each of the first 21 matches for the 12th-ranked women’s volleyball team this fall, middle blocker Kameron Cooper, “does everything well,” according to her head coach, Ricci Luyties. The 5-foot-10 sophomore leads the squad with 85 total blocks and is fifth in kills with 123. “Kameron’s quick, touches about 10 feet and gets over the net pretty far, which makes her an effective blocker,” says Luyties. “And for a middle, I’m surprised at the little things she’s unexpectedly good at, like converting broken plays, setting the ball with her hands and bump setting. As a hitter, she can also take the angle or turn on a ball, so she’s got a lot of potential offensively.” With the lengthy CCAA season just heading into its second half, the versatile Moreno Valley native took time to talk about the success of this year’s Triton team, the sport of volleyball and the personalities of her teammates.
Q: Your team is going into this weekend ranked 12th nationally with an 18-3 record. Last year at the same juncture, the team was just moving back into the rankings after a rough start. What is the difference?
COOPER: We’ve become even more competitive. Every individual on the team has elevated their game and is more disciplined than before. We put a great emphasis on discipline and focus, which has helped us in all of our victories.
Q: For the average fan, what, in your opinion, makes this year’s team exciting to watch?
COOPER: The intensity we show on the court. Every point is treated like it is our last and that makes each game fun to play and watch.
Q: What first attracted you to volleyball? What makes it the best sport for you?
COOPER: How unique it is. I had never heard of it until I was in the sixth grade. When I first tried it, I was instantly hooked. It’s the best sport for me because it is always a challenge and there is always something that you can be doing to help the team.
Q: You’ve started every match at middle blocker this season. For any player, what are the prerequisites for success in the middle?
COOPER: Being quick, smart and consistent. Middles run plays that are set quickly. Making yourself available to be set every chance you get is a great way to assist your team. Being smart requires being aware of the other side of the court as well as knowing where you are and placing the ball in a spot that makes it difficult for your opponent. Being consistent is great to have no matter what your position.
Q: At 5-foot-10, you’re probably short by middle blocker standards in the CCAA, yet you lead UCSD in total blocks. What’s the secret of your success, blocking-wise?
COOPER: Because I am considered short, I have been taught how to pay close attention to detail. That means recognizing when the other team is out of system, paying attention to a setter’s body position when making a certain set, and all the little things that give away clues as to where the ball is going next. I believe that my quickness and vertical also help the fact that I am not as tall as some of the girls we play.
Q: You and junior Sara McCutchan form a potent duo at the net for UCSD. What are the differences/similarities in your games? What is one thing that she does that you wish you could do better?
COOPER: Sara and I are both quick and are a challenge to follow on the court. However, we enjoy running different plays. I wish I could run “slides (C’s)” and have them be as effective as hers. She also has a great serve.
Q: Have you gotten any good advice from Coach Ricci Luyties? How would you describe his coaching style?
COOPER: Keep working. Every time I make a mistake or something doesn’t go the way I intended, he always has great feedback for me. Coach is a very open person who doesn’t shy away from speaking up. It’s great to have a coach who’s invested in every single one of his players.
Q: What was the toughest situation you’ve ever faced on the volleyball court and how did you handle it?
COOPER: Going into my first college match at a critical time. The situation was bittersweet because I was honored that the coach trusted me enough to give me a chance but I was also very nervous that I would not perform well for my team.
Q: What’s been the highlight of your UCSD volleyball career so far?
COOPER: Being a nationally-ranked blocker. Blocking is my favorite part of volleyball, so to be recognized for it on that level is truly rewarding.
Q: This year’s volleyball squad seems like a group that likes to have fun, both on and off the court. In terms of personalities, who best fits each of the following categories? Funniest? Most serious? Hardest worker? Strongest? Best dancer? Most stylish?
COOPER: Funniest: Katy (Woodward), Sara (McCutchan), Alyssa (Lin)
Most serious: Rachel (Gam), Caitlin (Brenton), Rachelle (Kinney)
Hardest worker: Kamila (Tan), Lauren (Demos), Brittany (Lombardi), Heidi (Sierks)
Strongest: Lizzy (Andrews), Heidi (Sierks)
Best dancer: Stephanie (Solich), me, Danielle (Dahle)
Most stylish: Makensie (Bates)
Q: What other sports do you enjoy watching at UCSD?
COOPER: I enjoy watching basketball since that was my first love. It’s still in my top three for all-time favorite sports but I admire all athletes for choosing to perform at the level of greatness that they do.
Q: One of your favorite professional sports teams is the Los Angeles Lakers of the NBA. Who is your favorite player?
COOPER: Kobe! He has always been my favorite. I believe he will definitely come back, 100 percent ready to battle for another championship. There is no doubt in my mind that the Lakers will be in the playoffs.
Q: You’re a human biology major at UC San Diego. What’s been the toughest class you’ve taken so far? What’s been the most interesting thing you’ve learned or done in a class?
COOPER: Chemistry has always been the biggest challenge for me. I don’t think any other class (with the exception of math) is as cumulative as (chemistry), so it makes it a little harder for me to keep up. The most interesting thing I’ve learned so far (in Psych 3) is how your brain can deceive you and cause your perception to be altered.
Q: What do you hope to do with that degree once you’ve completed your undergraduate work? Why?
COOPER: I’m going to medical school to pursue my dream of becoming a pediatrician. I’ve known that I wanted to take care of kids since I was seven years old. I still have faith in myself that I will accomplish this goal.
Q: Heading into the second half of the 2013 CCAA season, how would you assess your team’s play so far and what do you think its potential is going forward?
COOPER: The team has been doing incredibly well. We are great at reminding each other why we are all committed to the team and why every second of practice, weights, conditioning, and other activities, is important. We are absolutely ready to dominate in the second half of conference. We have the potential to do great things with the group of girls that we have and I believe we will make UCSD very proud.
Previous Triton Q&A Features
Rachel Leslie (Women's Soccer) October 9, 2013
Marie Diaz (Women's Cross Country/Track & Field) October 1, 2013
Joe Dietrich (Men's Water Polo) September 2, 2013
Josh Cohen (Men's Soccer) August 23, 2013
Sara McCutchan (Women's Volleyball) August 9, 2013
Kellen Levy (Men's Cross Country/Track & Field) July 26, 2013
Izzy Pozurama (Women's Soccer) July 8, 2013
Colin Truex (Women's Crew Head Coach) June 28, 2013