Driven to Succeed on the Sand: Amaya Messier
Young kids have the opportunity to try different sports, but rarely did anyone compete in every single one of them. Utah freshman Amaya Messier got about as close as you can get playing softball, tennis, gymnastics, and cheering. However, none of those sports consumed the Aurora, Colo., native's time quite like soccer did. Messier grew up playing all over the field until she discovered a new passion.
"I thought soccer would always be my main sport, but my mom played volleyball in high school and college, so she encouraged me to try it," said Messier. "I hated it at first, but she convinced me to try it for a little bit longer and I ended up falling in love with volleyball."
Messier struggled at first but was able to learn and gain experience playing in recreational leagues. Soon after, Messier decided to try out for a club team but was cut.
"It was tough because I was still unsure if I wanted to play the sport," said Messier. "My parents encouraged me to at least join the practice team to see how it would go and I'm so glad I did. I enjoyed playing and needed that extra push from them to help me stick through it."
She would only be on the practice squad for one year as she would make the club team at the following tryouts. As a member of the club team, Messier enjoyed traveling and being around her teammates, but she also really enjoyed the competitive atmosphere. The freshmen had always been competitive growing up and enjoyed the challenge associated with any kind of sport.
"I've always been super competitive because I wanted to be good at whatever I was doing," said Messier. "Whether that was school or sports I just wanted to do it well. It was more so an expectation I had for myself and competing has become one of my favorite things."
This competitive drive helped push Messier farther than any freshman in the state of Colorado. At Cherokee Trial High School, she set the all-time kills record by a freshman with 273 in a season, which led all freshman classes in the state in 2017. "That meant a lot to me because it was just another push forward… like this is the sport where I belong," said Messier.
She would go on to letter all four years at Cherokee Trail and became a first team All-Centennial League Selection. All of these honors were great, but it was the Cougar Outstanding Athlete award that will always mean the most to her.
"It was given to me at the end of my high school career," said Messier. "It's awarded to the most accomplished athlete in each graduating class, and I didn't even think about what that meant until I obtained it, so that was incredible."
While her high school career was going well, Messier felt like she needed something more than just club volleyball, so she did what everyone does when they need a change of scenery; hit the beach.
"I just found beach volleyball more fun," said Messier. "I wanted to round out my skills and when I started playing beach, I got more touches and enjoyed the training atmosphere. I fell in love with it pretty quick."
Messier loved it so much that she wouldn't let the cold Colorado winters get in her way of practicing. During the snow-filled months, she would practice on a sand court located inside of a garage. One thing Messier grew to love about practicing beach volleyball was her coach, Mike Patton.
"Coaches have such a huge impact on how you view the sport. I met Coach Patton and he encouraged me to pursue beach and instilled a lot of confidence in me. He is always super supportive of me and has had a huge impact on my love of the game."
When the time came for Messier to pick a school, she decided to go somewhere that she was already fond of.
"When I was freshmen in high school, I came out to Utah for an indoor camp and fell in love with the campus and atmosphere," said Messier. "It felt like home to me and once I had the opportunity to play beach here it became the best of both worlds for academics and sports."
Messier also grew up watching a lot of Pac-12 volleyball and dreamed about playing in the conference. Another appealing aspect for Messier about becoming a Ute was her relationship with beach volleyball Head Coach Brenda Whicker. When it comes to building a strong relationship with her teammates, Messier feels it has also come very naturally.
"Coach Whicker is super easy to communicate with and knowledgeable of the game. She's really easy to relate to and is just great. It has been super easy to make connections with the other girls because we all have similar goals of wanting to win and help build this program. Everybody also works extremely hard and it's just an awesome group."
This is the first year the beach team has been filled with primarily beach players rather than a mix of both indoor and sand players. Messier and the team are excited about the new opportunity to build the program.
"We have a lot of big goals because previously we've been struggling to assert our presence in the Pac-12," said Messier. "We want to start by just winning our first match and then winning most of our non-conference games so that when we head into our conference schedule we have something to be confident about."
"I want to establish a presence for Utah in the Pac-12 as a beach team to be reckoned with," said Messier. "I want to show everyone that just because your team is not on the coast doesn't determine how good of a beach team you can be."