Sara McCutchan started all 31 matches at middle blocker last season as UC San Diego went 20-11 and made the NCAA Championship without a single senior on the roster. The redshirt junior out of Irvine ranked in the top five in the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) in both hitting percentage (.310) and blocks (1.03 per set), earning all-region and All-CCAA Second Team selection. “Sara was statistically our top middle last year and has been a big part of our team,” says fourth-year Triton head coach Ricci Luyties. “She has also taken on the role of a team leader. Our girls follow her as a leader by example. Sara has the potential to be a first-team all-conference player, and I know she has two great years left in her for us.”
With the Tritons back on campus in just 10 days on Monday, Aug. 19, for the start of fall camp, McCutchan talked to us about what lies ahead, her burgeoning rap career (?!), and much more. UCSD opens the 2013 season in San Bernardino on Friday, Sept. 6.
Q: This program qualified for a seventh straight NCAA Division II Championship last season with no seniors. How high is your ceiling for the 2013 campaign? What do you expect to see out of your squad?
McCUTCHAN: I am extremely excited for this upcoming season. We have a great group of players who are diligent, motivated and very skilled. We have a nice team dynamic and great chemistry on the court. My hope for our team is that we continue to test and challenge each other to become the best we can be. One of my favorite aspects of this team is that we take volleyball seriously, and we are committed to the time and energy it takes to be the best. We are competitive with each other, but never at the cost of laughter, fun and friendship.
Q: What will it take to end Cal State San Bernardino’s run of seven CCAA titles in a row?
McCUTCHAN: Last year, we split 1-1 with San Bernardino in very close matches. (Editor’s Note: Both meetings were decided in five sets, with the home side prevailing. The Tritons rallied from a two-set deficit in La Jolla.) They are a very good team and really fun to play against, but now that we know what it takes to beat them, I am confident that we can do it again!
Q: You’ll face eight non-conference opponents in two tournaments over back-to-back weekends to open the season, including the first tournament hosted by UCSD since 2008. Describe how these tournament atmospheres get you ready for the CCAA schedule and what you’re most looking forward to about welcoming seven tough sides into RIMAC.
McCUTCHAN: The early tournaments are always fun. We get to come together and sharpen our skills against some really good teams. Whether we have all returners or some new freshmen in the mix, it’s a good opportunity to get back into a team rhythm. I’m really looking forward to hosting a tournament this year. I love playing in RIMAC. It feels like home to me, and I’m proud to share it with our preseason opponents.
Q: Tell us about playing for Ricci Luyties.
McCUTCHAN: Coach Luyties is a great coach, and I have nothing but respect and appreciation for him. He is extremely knowledgeable about the game and his love for volleyball is contagious. Coach has set a high standard of excellence for our team. He inspires me to do my best. It’s easy to respect a coach for his athletic reputation (he’s practically famous!), but I also really admire Coach Luyties for his character and perspective.
Q: Where does your team look for leadership and why?
McCUTCHAN: We have a very unique dynamic in that everyone has the ability to take a leadership role. Naturally, the older girls are expected to set the tone, but everyone contributes to our team culture and success.
Q: What have you been up to this summer?
McCUTCHAN: I’ve mainly been focusing on pursuing my rap career, so I’ve been spending a lot of time in the studio cooking up fresh beats. (Editor’s Note: We thinks she jests?! Then again... hmmm. We’ll let you the reader decide!)
Q: Training camp opens for you in just a few short days. You’re coming off of a 2012 season in which you earned all-region and all-conference honors. What have you done over the summer to prepare yourself for your junior year and what are your personal expectations?
McCUTCHAN: I have been following our workout plan, put together by our really great strength and conditioning coach, Kevin (Backus). It involves lifting, sprinting, jumping... all the good stuff! Personal expectations... that is a tough one... I always want to improve, whether that means hitting technique or agility, so I would say my goal would be to continue to improve up until our very last match. And finally, my preparation for the season also includes a really great pedicure!
Q: What made you come to UC San Diego?
McCUTCHAN: UC San Diego was a really great fit for what I was looking for in a college education. I wanted to be academically challenged, play volleyball and still enjoy myself outside of the gym and classroom. My experience here has been very well-rounded and I wouldn’t change a thing!
Q: Was it a tough decision for you to choose volleyball over basketball?
McCUTCHAN: In high school, basketball was actually more of a focus, but I’ve always loved both and have thoroughly enjoyed my road to college volleyball. I did play intramural basketball last winter and had a great time shaking the rust off a little bit though!
Q: You’ve been lucky enough to make two Hawaii trips over the past two seasons. Any particular highlight?
McCUTCHAN: Two years ago, we were there for a summer tournament, so our days were packed with volleyball matches. On our day off, we went on a great team hike and frolicked in the waves at a nice beach cove. This year, we were in Hawaii for the postseason regional tournament, so our volleyball efforts were a lot more focused. We had a lot more time to explore the island and we even got to take a special VIP tour of the Navy submarines in Pearl Harbor hosted by sailors! (Thank you, Mrs. Dahle!)
Q: Are there any television shows you watch religiously?
McCUTCHAN: Downton Abbey has been a summer favorite for my mom and I! Friday Night Lights is also one of my favorite series.
Q: You list cooking as a hobby. Rate your ability for us. What do you most like to cook?
McCUTCHAN: My favorite things to make are fajitas, banana chocolate chip pancakes, stir-fry, colorful salads and peach cobbler! My mom is the best cook that I know and sometimes I try to recreate some of her masterpieces. As for my own skill, the food tastes pretty good and everything gets eaten with no complaints!
Q: What else do you like to do away from the volleyball court?
McCUTCHAN: Latin dance is one of my new favorite hobbies! Beach volleyball is always fun and I love spending time with my family. We have a new family member, “Runnin’ on Vaporz” (our retired racing greyhound!). I also like to paddleboard, and I would like to travel more.
Q: As a self-proclaimed frozen yogurt connoisseur, what’s your flavor and where in San Diego do you go?
McCUTCHAN: Cake batter with rainbow sprinkles!! Other flavors and toppings come and go, but cake batter with rainbow sprinkles (not chocolate sprinkles... big difference) has always been my go-to. I feel that I could write a whole article on the strengths and weaknesses of different yogurt places, but the one that we return to preseason after preseason is Tutti Frutti in La Jolla.
Previous Triton Q&A Features
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
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