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Steps Magazine | Serving On and Off the Court

FIn spring CSUSM welcomed its first six volleyball student-athletes to campus as the players got an early start acclimating to university life and training for the program’s first season of collegiate competition, which starts August 19.“We’re excited that we get to set the record at CSUSM,” said psychology major and 5-foot-10 setter Christie Allen. “It’s an amazing opportunity and privilege to be a part of the University’s first collegiate volleyball team.”Since February, Allen and her fellow student-athletes, Rachel Kuehn, Nichole May, Alicia Perry, Lindsey Sappington and Brittany Thompson, have been practicing with Coach Dennis Palpallatoc. Combined, the first six players have more than 40 years of volleyball experience.“While experience is important, practicing together as a team is essential,” said middle-blocker Nichole May, who was recruited along with Sappington and Allen from Irvine Valley College. “An entire play can be over in seconds, and communication is the key for team solidarity and success.”In August, the 18-member inaugural team will begin intense training and practice before taking to the court for their first official match at the Azusa Pacific Tournament on August 19. In total, women’s volleyball will play 22 games for its 2011 season, competing as an independent member in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). Less than 25 percent of their matches will be classified as home games, which will be played offsite at nearby facilities until the proposed state-of-the-art sports arena is funded and built.“Unlike other collegiate programs where you join a team with an established ‘this is how we do it’ attitude, here we get to build our legacy from the ground up,” said middle blocker Alicia Perry. Perry is the only signed player that is not a newcomer to the campus. Now a junior, she started as a freshman at CSUSM in 2009.“As a team, we look forward to writing the record books and being part of the history of volleyball on this campus,” said Coach Palpallatoc, who was announced as the interim head coach in January. Palpallatoc comes to CSUSM with more than 25 years of volleyball coaching experience, including earning recognition as National Coach of the Year after leading Christian Heritage College to a national championship. For the last five years, he has owned and directed 951 Elite Volleyball, which is ranked among the best in the nation, training junior volleyball coaches and athletes.“Every one of our players is a strong, competitive athlete and each demonstrates strong character both on and off the court,” he said, adding that many of the inaugural players give back to the sport, coaching young aspiring athletes.“I feel proud that I’m giving back to my community and to volleyball as well,” shared Allen, who grew up in Corona playing competitive volleyball since age nine. “So many great and talented coaches have invested in me and helped me develop my athletic skills and abilities, and I’m grateful to be able to pass along that knowledge and reinvest in the next generation of athletes.”“It’s extremely impressive and a significant testament to our University’s ability to attract and sign players of great caliber and great character to a first year program,” Coach Palpallatoc added. “I’m confident that our team will climb to the top very quickly, leaving a positive legacy at CSUSM and on our community.”To learn more about Cougar volleyball and our other sports, visit www.csusmcougars.com.