Dec. 22, 2000
By Mike Kreiger
Whether using the United States' inches or Canada's metric centimeters, it is not hard to measure Chelsie Schafer's importance to the Washington State women's volleyball team.
Schafer, a sophomore from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, is known around the Palouse for her outstanding play on the court, as well as her study habits away from the gym. She was named to the 2000 All-Pac-10 honorable mention team and the Pac-10 All-Academic honorable mention team. The coaching staff likes what it has seen from Schafer.
'Chelsie has incredible intensity and a lot of power,' coach Cindy Fredrick said. 'She's a very strong kid. She wants to win and has a great killer instinct.'
Schafer, who can play both the right side and setter positions, emerged this season as a big hitter for the Cougars. There was some uncertainty before the season which position Schafer would play, but her 3.32 kills per game (second on the team) quickly changed any doubts.
'Chelsie wanted to be a setter,' Fredrick said. 'We very seriously considered (using two setters) this year. Seeing how much we got from her on the hitting side of it, it made sense to use her as a hitter. I like the way she puts the ball away. She hits the ball hard and is intimidating.'
Although there are differences between living in Canada and the United States, Schafer has adjusted well.
'It took me a while getting used to everything last year because I was only 17, and it was my first time being away from home,' Schafer said. 'It was a little scary and took a little adjusting. This is home to me now. I figured that out of all the places recruiting me, this was the best academically.'
Schafer, who played volleyball, basketball and track in high school, loves living in Pullman.
'I wouldn't know how to react going to a university in a big city because I love Pullman so much,' she said. 'It's such a tight-knit community. Especially being an athlete, we know all the other athletes. We hang out together all the time. It's a lot of fun in a small town because you always see everyone and everybody knows your name.'
One obvious disadvantage of playing volleyball so far from home is not being able to see family on a regular basis.
'You don't realize how hard it is without your parents,' Schafer said. 'Back home, my parents came to every game. I came down here and all the other parents were here at the games. It really makes me feel good when somebody is out there in the stands watching.'
Fortunately for Schafer, her sister, Sarah, finally got the chance to come to Pullman and see Chelsie play. Sarah must have brought the Cougars good luck because they defeated the seventh ranked UCLA Bruins 3-1. The win was the sixth-consecutive Pac-10 victory for the Cougars and opened the door for their invite to the NCAA Volleyball Championships. After the match, Sarah was proud of her younger sister.
'My sister is a superstar,' Sarah Schafer said with a smile. 'I still remember when I taught her how to hit. Now she's amazing. Sometimes I feel like my parents are looking at me like `what have you done for us lately?''
The Cougars started out on fire this season, winning preseason matches with ease. Then Pac-10 play came around, and they struggled. It was only a matter of time before WSU got back on the winning track.
'I think we've had the talent all along,' Schafer said. 'We've just recently realized it and all the sudden it started to click. There's a lot of confidence now. There has been a lot of individual talent, but now we're finally putting it all together, and we're doing it at the right time.'
Thanks in large part to Schafer's outstanding play, the Cougars were selected to participate in their seventh NCAA Division I Women's Volleyball Championship Tournament in the past ten years.
'I just wanted to play well,' Schafer said. 'Everybody wanted to get to the NCAA Tournament. We knew that with the players we have, we could do well.'
Although she is only a sophomore, Schafer has some tentative plans after graduation.
'I am majoring in general biology,' Schafer said. 'I would like to teach high school biology, probably in Canada. I will get my biology major here and then go back and take education at home. But you never know, things might change.'
While Schafer's plans are not yet set in stone, there is a feeling among collegiate volleyball fans that this Cougar team can make some noise in the national volleyball standings for years to come. With all but one player returning next season, the Cougars look to be an elite team in the Pac-10 and make several more runs in the NCAA Championship Tournament.
And Schafer's strong presence on the court will provide lots of excitement along the way. It's enough to make some Cougar fans learn the words to 'Oh, Canada.'