Courtney Blocher Is ASU's Jack Of All Trades
Oct. 11, 2002
By Chad Potter
ASU Media Relations
Every team has that one player who can do so many things. Sometimes a lot of the work goes un-noticed, but at the end of the game that player is the difference between winning and losing. Others players take the glory of scoring the last point or blocking the last shot, but this player just serves another days work. All great teams need this type of player. For the Arizona State Sun Devils, that player is junior libero Courtney Blocher.
Being more than a one-dimensional athlete isn't unfamiliar ground for Blocher. As a child she participated in gymnastics. In high school she played track, basketball and squeezed in enough time to play volleyball and with her superior play was subsequently named the 1999 Arizona State Gatorade Player of the year.
'I did gymnastics for nine years,' said the Junior from Scottsdale, Arizona who attended Chandler's Valley Christian High School. 'I also did track in high school for four years and played a little bit of basketball.'
But as Courtney started middle school the sport of choice quickly changed from gymnastics to volleyball. That is when she met someone who would eventually have a great impact on her life.
'When I quit gymnastics I tried out for volleyball and that's when I met Patti Snyder-Park, who was my first coach at the age of 12,' said Blocher.
Blocher met another former assistant coach at Arizona State (Scott Swanson) who coached her club team in high school, which helped in her decision to come to ASU.
'I'm an in-state player,' said the Elementary Education major. 'Scott (Swanson) was my club coach so I just kind of followed him here.'
Once at ASU, Courtney began to show everyone why she was named Gatorade State Player of the Year. As a freshmen just learning how to play Division 1 volleyball, Blocher posted 291 digs in 113 games (2.58 dpg). In her sophomore year, Blocher averaged over three digs per game on her way to placing ninth overall in the Pac-10 conference in digs per game (3.09). So far this season, Blocher has already accumulated 126 digs and ranks ninth in the Pac-10 again this season with 3.16 digs per game. Her stellar play leads to lofty expectations.
'I want to break the dig record,' said Blocher of the ASU record of 601 digs in a season. 'Now that they added the libero position I think that's possible.'
The addition of the libero position moved Blocher from her normal position of outside hitter, a position she excelled in during high school. The position change gives the junior a lot more action on the court and takes away some of her responsibilities, which is something she doesn't mind.
'Its nice, because now I know that I can concentrate on digging and passing the whole time. I don't have to worry about getting out and hitting.' While her duties may have been limited, Blocher negates the assumption that she is less effective as a player. 'I'm more comfortable in libero this year. I like it a lot better this year than being a defensive specialist because you can contribute a lot more on the court and be a leader.' What a leader she has been.
Blocher's leadership on the court has helped the Sun Devils vault into the national top 25 rankings at No. 22, being ranked for the first time since early in the 1996 season. The Devils have have earned big wins this year against Pacific, UCLA and rival Arizona. Blocher has two matches with 20 or more digs, including a season-high 23 vs. Washington last weekend.
Against the Wildcats, the Devils had to rally from behind late in the third game to pull out the sweep. Arizona scored seven straight points to take the lead over from Arizona State. Then the Sun Devils came together as a team to put away their arch rivals from the south.
'For once we blocked all the coaches and the fans out. When it comes down to it and you have no time outs left, its just you and your team. It comes down to each persons responsibilities and we came through.'
Then came the Pac-10 rivals Washington. ASU jumped to a quick lead and won the first two games. Then the Huskies came roaring back to even the score at two games a piece. That is when coach Patti Snyder inserted the versatile Blocher into the lineup, as an outside hitter. The result was an energized attack and a victory.
'Our outsides were having a tough night. Patti came over and asked me if I was ready to go in. I jumped at the opportunity and went in.'
Although the Sun Devils have gained confidence with their recent streaky play, even a seasoned veteran like Blocher knows to be great ASU must keep a level head.
'Every single game this year is important,' noted Blocher, emphasizing focus. 'No team should be overlooked.' Blocher has also been known by teammates as the comedian on the squad. A sense of humor always helps during the long grind of a season. 'I keep it fun. I like to joke around a lot because you have to be here for three hours every single day so you should at least have some fun while you do it.'
Off the court, Blocher also helps coach young kids who may be on the same path as herself. 'I coach a club team after I'm done with practice. The majority of the players are from Gilbert High School. After volleyball here at ASU I would like to pursue a college coaching career.'
The Sun Devils undoubtedly benefit from the presence of a veteran who can do so many things that are vital for a team to be successful at a high level. Blocher switches positions, coaches young players and keeps the mood light at practice. What more can a team or a coach ask for?