Persistence pays off for Truckee volleyball player
As Erica Tassone recently learned, playing high school sports is not the only way to achieve one’s collegiate dream.
Not with the emphasis college coaches and recruiters place on club sports these days ” and with the convenience of the Internet.
About three weeks ago the 2008 Truckee High grad received a call from Kurt Kohler, head volleyball coach at Barton County (Kan.) Community College. Searching for a talented setter to help lead his nationally ranked squad, Kohler scouted out Tassone from the Web site http://www.berecruited.com.
The fact that Tassone was cut from her varsity volleyball team her senior season was irrelevant. Kohler liked what he saw watching the five videos she posted on the recruiting site ” clips taken from matches with her club volleyball team in Sacramento.
“I was impressed with her talent,” Kohler said. “She played at a very high level and had a lot of success. I saw her being a great leader on our floor.”
So the coach flew Tassone out to Great Bend, Kan., this past week for a three-day to visit the Barton County campus.
By Tuesday morning Tassone had signed her letter of intent, gladly accepting a guaranteed two-year scholarship that covers everything but room and board. It’s a moment she won’t soon forget.
“It was amazing,” said Tassone, describing her emotions as she signed the letter. “It’s something I’ve worked for for six years.”
And to think, she had already conceded to leaving volleyball behind to attend Montana State University. And now she’s in line to earn a starting position on a team that ranked No. 9 in the country in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) last season.
“We do have a sophomore returning who was a backup last year, but the level Erica played at will give her an advantage,” Kohler said. “It will be a battle between those two, but in the long run I see Erica getting a lot of playing time.”
So how was such a prospect cut from her Truckee High team this past year?
Tassone, who played each of her first three seasons ” earning team MVP honors her freshman year, competing on varsity as a sophomore and leading the team in setting and serving percentages as a junior ” thinks it stems from her strong-willed personality.
“I’m very hardheaded and a strong young woman, and I think that scares a lot of coaches,” she said. “But I’m willing to learn anything from anybody.”
Although getting cut came as a shock, Tassone made the best of the situation.
“It surprised me. I was completely devastated because volleyball is one of my true passions in life,” she said. “I’m very determined and very strong, so I just wanted to push through it because it’s something I’ve always wanted to do.”
After playing for the Delta Valley club team in Lodi her junior year, Tassone joined the Force, a team out of Sacramento, from December 2007 till May 2008. The competition was top notch, but the commitment was demanding, as Tassone drove to the Valley three days a week for three-hour practices and played in tournaments twice a month.
Thinking back on it all, Tassone said her club volleyball experienced opened more doors than high school volleyball ever could have. “You pretty much have to play at the club level to be recruited,” she said, adding that she turned down several offers from colleges that did not offer her major ” criminal justice and forensics. Barton County offers it.
Ray Batalon, assistant volleyball coach at University of Nevada, Reno and Director of the Sierra Nevada Volleyball Club, has worked with Tassone as a private instructor since she was in junior high. When describing his former student, he agreed that Tassone indeed is on the “hardheaded” side, as she described herself.
“Yeah, that’s part of her nature being hard-working and determined,” he said. “She wants to succeed and she wants information. She’s very competitive by nature, so sometimes that can come across as stubborn.”
Yet it’s that part of her personality that leads to one of Tassone’s strong points as a player, Batalon said.
“Her determination to accomplish her goal has always been her main strength,” he said.
As far as physical tools, “Erica has really great hands for a setter,” Batalon said. “She has great touch with the ball, which is critical for her position as a setter. She has an understanding of how the ball is going to react coming to her.”
Batalon said Barton County Community College “has a reputation in the volleyball community as a school to be reckoned with at the J.C. level,” and that the program should be a perfect fit for Tassone.
“She’s going to do very, very well at that level because of her skills and volleyball IQ,” the coach said. “She has great knowledge of the game.”
The season is just around the corner, as Barton County starts practice Aug. 8 and plays its first match Aug. 22. Tassone leaves Tuesday.
“I’m excited and nervous at the same time,” she said. “I’m excited to play at the collegiate level, but I’m nervous because it’s really far from home. I’m really going to miss my mom. She has been my best friend.”
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Students from North Tahoe and Truckee recently made the trip to Nevada Union High School in Grass Valley to compete in the annual Kays Ostrom Invitational.