ASU's Preach On The Rise

By Siobhan Cavan

Stephanie Preach lives in the moment. Arizona State volleyball's 3-1 preseason loss to San Jose State in the Sheraton Classic could dishearten some athletes. Pressures coming from all sides to win could distract others. But Preach, a returning sophomore uses the pressure to learn from and better herself.

"I'm aware of how hard I have to work, and I have a different mindset [compared to last year]," Preach said. "I treat volleyball like my job, and I'm working out daily, not just during the season but during the off season."

Preach came in as a force in her freshman year at the libero position and finished with 101 sets, 117 assists and 317 digs. She also completed the year with 14 service aces, sending a strong message to Pac-12 volleyball that she is here to stay.

This year, preseason started for Preach in August with three weeks of training before the tournament this past weekend. She thinks the team is working hard and training well, both on court and in the gym with preparation going without any hiccups. Preach acknowledges the loss as an opportunity to turn any negativity into motivation. "We have to work extremely hard when we have the opportunity to, in order to win and come out strong," Preach said.

Looking back on her freshmen year comes with mixed emotions, which Preach describes as "bittersweet." Despite not making the NCAA tournament, she spent a lot of time on the court not only growing as a individual, but also developing strong relationships with those around her. Always the team player, regardless of her own individual development and personal successes, Preach wishes that "there was more I could have done."

But attitude is what makes all the difference, and with a girl like Preach, it is the driving force. What do losses and failing to reach the tournament last year inspire in an athlete like her? "I definitely want to make the tournament," Preach explains. "All week we're in the gym, you know, working out with our trainer all summer. The whole team, we're just taking it seriously."

And with a year's experience under her belt, something changed for Preach as she struggled to redefine her change in attitude toward Sun Devil volleyball. "It definitely hit me in a different light. I mean, I was always committed to it, but now I breathe ASU volleyball," she said.

On court Preach is known for her energy and enthusiasm, with these characteristics defining her game and her goals for the upcoming year. Preach's strengths are in defense and she wants to make sure she capitalizes on that. "Passing is always going to be the strongest component of our game and I know a lot of that I have control over, so I just have to keep my team going, keep their energy up, obviously," Preach said.

Preach said, "I'm kind of commanding the back row and communicating with everyone on my team, therefore I am extremely loud and energetic. I have a lot of energy so that is my goal to keep my energy up my entire match and just to win."

Like other athletes, Preach has found ways to conquer any nerves she may have while competing for the Sun Devils. Overcoming any pre-match anxieties is done simply by "blocking them out," with Preach understanding the importance of not letting other things get in the way. "I take a deep breath and focus on the point I'm in, just really trying to focus on what I need to," said Preach. "I love games, game settings, the crowd. I love the crowd. It's so awesome when we can play in front of a crowd and when we can fill our stands, it's such a great feeling."

Not one to let any opportunities pass her by, Preach is a model of both terms within the phrase 'student-athlete.' She is headed towards a degree in science and communications, and a minor in psychology.

The ASU volleyball team clearly has no place for the academically fainthearted as Preach describes her teammates as "geniuses", explaining "everyone gets really good grades, so I feel pressure to do that as well."

Being a Sun Devil didn't happen by accident for Preach. "I always was a big fan of ASU," said Preach. "I have always wanted to go to ASU to be a part of this program." A native of Phoenix, Ariz., she is the seventh family member to attend ASU and attributes her successes to those she loves the most.

"I wanted to share this experience more with my family, because you know there is a reason that I have got as far as I have, my parents [put] me though club and school," said Preach. "My entire family is in Arizona […] I get to see them a lot."

All about family, Preach loves being part of what she describes as the Sun Devil community. "I love being a Sun Devil, I can't even describe it. The community; we all know each other, we're kind of like a family, we support each other, we hang out with each other."

Preach is currently focusing on everything directly in front of her, like this week's practice, the upcoming tournament and the upcoming season. "Gradually [I hope] we keep getting better and better, winning, and then working on getting a national title. I'm just hoping it gets better and better," she said.

Preach and her team travel to Iowa this weekend to play a tournament against Iowa, Iowa State and Southern Miss. Through past experiences, the Sun Devils truly understand the importance of snatching up opportunities that are presented to them, as Preach declares, "These preseason tournaments, they are extremely important and we learned those mistakes last year."

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