Cal's Barrett Setting The Pace
By John Hankemeier
Well-over halfway through the 2011 women's volleyball season, Elly Barrett, political-economy major, and junior setter for the University of California Bears, is cashing in on the two years she invested with the scout team behind All-American starter Carli Lloyd.
It's no secret that when Barrett decided to play at Cal, she would spend her first couple seasons on the sideline, but the junior setter from Austin, Texas, was not discouraged.
Impressed with the school's academic program and the volleyball team's winning tradition, Barrett's decision to become a Bear was based on personal improvement, regardless of whether that meant waiting for her turn in the spotlight.
One of the nation's top volleyball players in high school, the 2008 Max Preps All-American and 2009 Texas Coach's All-Star team selectee, Barrett decided fittingly to play for a college team, that like her, received national attention.
"I wanted the competition, and it was a great opportunity to be a part of the program and the school," says Barrett.
The Cal volleyball program, which began in 1975, has had 30 All-Conference and 12 All-American player selections throughout its history. During that time the team has compiled a 29-18 post-season record, and 14 NCAA tournament appearances.
In 2010, the program finished its best season on record with an appearance in the NCAA national championship for the first time. It was the ninth consecutive time that the team, under the guidance of head coach Rich Feller, had made it to the tourney.
From her vantage point on the bench as a freshmen and sophomore, Barrett was able to watch the best players in the nation compete against the Bears each week.
But not all Barrett did was watch. As a member of the scout squad, she was able to develop into a dynamic player, despite her lack of in-game competition.
"I got to play in practice against one of the top teams in the country for the past two years," says Barrett. "I've played with a lot of the girls for a while that I've been setting."
With long hours spent at practice, Barrett credits her strong work ethic for continuing to approach each day with a positive attitude.
Practicing head-to-head against All-American setter Lloyd, Barrett acknowledges the significant contribution that the "role-model" Lloyd had on her current success.
The unselfish character that was evident in Lloyd is also shared by Barrett, who redirects most of the attention she receives toward teammates and coaches.
"A lot of volleyball is about trust," Barrett says.
This trust, which Barrett explains plays an important function in the chemistry of the team, is also established in the on and off-court friendships she has made with teammates.
"That the setter's job is to make good decisions," she says, a process that becomes much easier when trust is established between the players.
As a leader and the starting setter, Barrett says, "I hope that they look at me as reliable and someone that sets a good example on and off the court."
This season, the team has excelled behind the leadership of Barrett, and managed to find themselves on top of the rankings for four consecutive weeks.
With Barrett starting at setter, the Bears continue to perform at the level that helped them reach the NCAA championship a season ago.
"Competition is so tough you can't take a day off," says Barrett.
If the Bears are to finish better than they did last season, they will have to add one more game to their schedule before taking a day off, a lofty goal for most teams but one Barrett would like to achieve before her senior year.