Competitive Drive On, Off Court

By Spencer Schloss

With only a month left of summer, most University of Oregon students are still relaxing and enjoying their summer vacations, but redshirt junior Alaina Bergsma's 2011 school year is off to a hot start. Bergsma, an outside hitter, helped Oregon volleyball last week in its four-set win over Pennsylvania State University (16-25, 25-21, 25-20, 25-22), while simultaneously preparing to represent Lane County in the Miss Oregon pageant.

The win at Penn State was one of the most talked about stories in sports this past week because of the home win-streak PSU held. Entering the game, PSU had won 94 consecutive home matches, with its last home loss coming on September 1, 2006 against Eastern Kentucky - almost five seasons ago. Led by Bergsma's 19 kills, the Ducks pulled off arguably their biggest win in program history as they dealt with the deafening noise of the fans at Recreation Hall.

"The atmosphere was amazing against PSU, their fans yelled and screamed the entire game, making it hard for us communicate in the first game, but in the second game we started to play more like a team and figured out how to adapt to the crowd," said Bergsma.

A Chandler, Ariz., native, Bergsma began her collegiate career at Loyola Maramount and during her freshmen year she tore her labrum, forcing her to redshirt. Coming back after the injury, Bergsma had a stellar freshmen season for LMU as she was named one of eighteen "Rising Stars" national all-freshmen team. But there were some changes at LMU that made Bergsma decide to transfer to Oregon.

"I loved playing at LMU, but after some coaching changes I wanted to play in a new conference and I knew playing in the Pac-10 was going to be the best for me on the court and in the classroom," Bergsma said.

After transferring, Bergsma gave the Ducks an immediate boost on offense with 339 kills on the season, including a 21-kill game against the seventh-ranked Washington Huskies. As she heads into her junior year, Bergsma looks to build on the success of last season.

"I strive to get better everyday at practice as I focus on becoming one of the best volleyball players," Bergsma said.
 
As she readies herself for her next opponent on the court, Bergsma also knows in the back of her mind she needs to prepare for another future opponent unlike most of her teammates face.  

Bergsma may be getting more looks off the court than on as of late, as she prepares for the Miss Oregon pageant in November. After being named Miss Lane County in April, Bergsma is preparing for her first real pageant after being introduced into pageants by high school friend and club teammate Kelsey Moore, who is currently Miss Texas and just competed for Miss USA.

"We both played volleyball in high school and she recommended I try to enter pageants also," Bergsma said. "I am a very competitive person and the tools I have from playing volleyball will help me with the upcoming pageant."

Bergsma always has had that competitive drive as she grew up in a competitive household. Her older brother Ben played football and basketball at Clairemont-McKenna College in California.

"Coming from such a competitive family, even board games and games around the house were intense," Bergsma said. "Each one of me and my siblings wanted to win anything we could compete at."

Preparing for a pageant is no simple task, especially while simultaneously playing Division-I volleyball.

"I have to organize my time out right in order to play and compete in the upcoming pageant," Bergsma said. "During the school year I need to go to practice, class, study hall, do some homework, and still have time to balance a normal social life any college student would have."

With no professional coaching, Bergsma practices for the upcoming pageant by herself, while getting advice from Moore, and help from teammates.

"I have to practice my interview skills for the pageant so I have my teammates ask me questions to improve my communication skills before the pageant," Bergsma said. "Getting advice and asking questions to Kelsey is important since she has had success in pageants."

Bergsma hopes to see her hard work and practice for the pageant pay off like it has so far for volleyball. This past summer, she was elected to the USA Volleyball A2 National Team in the spring of 2011 to play in China. In 2010, she earned an All-Pac-10 Honorable Mention for the Ducks, and most recently, she was named the Pac-12 Player of the Week.

After completing her degree in sports business at the UO, Bergsma plans to go to Europe to play professionally. Oregon will return to Eugene on September 2 for its home opener against Seattle University; it will be the first time the team has been home since snapping Penn State's 94-match home-win streak.

"My experience this season so far has been amazing. Beating a great team like Penn State just shows how much my team and I want to be in San Antonio competing for a national championship this year," Bergsma said.

Bergsma knows that she is going to have to bring her competitive drive everywhere she goes - whether its facing a defender on the court, or appearing in front of a panel of judges.

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