Caity Noonan is the Heart and Soul of the Cal Volleyball Team

Sept. 16, 2002

BERKELEY, CA -

By Reena Pardiwala

Ask anyone associated with the Cal volleyball program who the heart and soul of this year's team is and they will tell you it is Caity Noonan.

As the Golden Bears' starting setter and co-captain, Noonan is undoubtedly a huge reason Cal is 9-0 this season, capturing three consecutive tournaments, winning a school-record 27 straight games and tying the Bears' best start in school history. She will definitely be a key force with her setting, passing and serving this Friday when Cal takes on defending national champion rival Stanford at The Farm. But what really makes Noonan endearing to the Bears are such intangibles as spirit, enthusiasm and determination.

'Every coach looks for a player like Caity Noonan,' said Cal head coach Rich Feller. 'She is what you might call a coaches' player. She has everything a coach wants in an athlete. She has desire, she has talent, she has work ethic, and she has natural leadership qualities. I think this year Caity has really grown into the role of leader, both on and off the court. It was apparent from the first day she stepped into practice this season. She's pretty incredible. You know, setters don't often get the same recognition as the big hitters, but in these early season tournaments, in my book, she could have very well been MVP. She makes the team go.'

Coming off a torn ACL in her left knee suffered against Florida Atlantic in the fourth match of last year, Noonan sat out practically the entire 2001 season. It was a difficult period for her, but Noonan never ceased in her determination to return to court. Now it appears she has not missed a beat, recording 344 assists with 25 kills, 49 digs and 15 service aces in the Bears' first nine matches of 2002. She is currently ninth on Cal's all-time assist list 1,179), even though she has never been the Bears' full-time setter until this year.

'Dealing with the injury was hard at first because I knew the time frame and how long it would take to heal,' said Noonan. 'And it was depressing because I didn't know if my body would be capable of ever playing again. I put a lot of hard work into my rehabbing and strengthening, but when I came back onto the court I still wasn't trusting of my knee. But, I'm doing well, I feel strong and composed. Right now I just want to be a better player to help my teammates get better.'

Volleyball has been a big part of Noonan's life and she has striven to be the best player possible ever since the first day she was introduced to the sport growing up in San Carlos.

'The first time I played volleyball was when I tried out for the seventh grade team,' said Noonan. 'I picked up the sport really easily and I absolutely loved it. It was so exciting and it just made all the other sports I played seem not as fun. Ever since then my love for the game hasn't ceased. I'm just as fired up now as when I was 12 years old.'

Just two years after Noonan started playing volleyball, she joined the City Beach Volleyball Club, one of the top clubs in Northern California, eventually leading City Beach to the gold medal at the 1998 USA Junior National Volleyball Championship. At the age of 16, wanting to develop her skills even more, Noonan went outdoors onto the grass courts. Every weekend she played in coed doubles volleyball grass tournaments and by the age of 18, she won the USA Volleyball National Outdoor Championship in Reverse Coed AA Division with Aaron Mansfield, now a junior on the men's volleyball team at UC Santa Barbara.

'I fell in love with outdoor volleyball, which became like a hobby apart from indoor volleyball,' said Noonan. 'Grass is exciting. It was hard to pick up right away, but I really like doubles because it's volleyball at an individual level because you're involved in every play. By playing outdoors it helped my skills indoors. I also grew up playing with guys, which helped me because guys hit a lot harder and faster. I have always played with people better than me growing up.'

Even after becoming a Bear and competing at the collegiate level, Noonan still played outdoor volleyball and has played every summer since her senior year of high school. She has compiled numerous wins in AAA Reverse Coed tournaments, including the Ventura Open in 1999 with Pat Aparicio and the Marin Open in 2001 with Keith Lui. Both Aparicio and Lui are former Cal men volleyball players.

'You can tell Caity is really passionate about the game of volleyball,' said teammate and fellow co-captain Leah Young. 'During the summer she's always doing grass tournaments, doubles tournaments, playing on the sand. Whenever she has free time, she is playing volleyball, constantly trying to perfect her skills. She is the epitome of what a great volleyball player is. She is our leader. As a setter she has to take that role and she does a great job of that. Not only does she lead by example, but her commitment makes those around her better and that's what I think a true leader is. She has stepped into her role and done an amazing job, especially given that she has just come back from surgery. Her attitude is amazing. She is so funny and open minded and is always ready to do what is best for the team.'

With such glowing praise for Caity Noonan, who is obviously such an important player on the Cal volleyball team, it is little wonder the Bears are enjoying themselves so much this season.

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