When Liz Masakayan was a freshman on the UCLA women's volleyball team, she said that she wasn't interested in trying out for the Olympic team and that there was "more to life than volleyball."
Three years later, Masakayan, who won last year's Broderick Award as the nation's best collegiate player, is finding that volleyball is playing a bigger part in her life and that the 1988 Olympics is far from the farthest thing on her mind.
A consensus All-American power hitter who led the Bruins to an NCAA championship last season, she said she thinks she wants to try out for the Olympics--but doesn't want to spend too much time thinking about that at the moment.
"This is my last season (at UCLA) and that's what I want to concentrate on. That may not be a straight answer, but I do have strong feelings for going to the Olympics," she said.
When quoted in 1982, she said college volleyball "was all so new to me." "But now I'm so used to everything--the drills, the routine every day of practice--that I know what to expect and what not to expect. I've adjusted to it easily now."
She adjusted so well that she went from being an All-American at Santa Monica High School to a college All-American in her junior season. Her change of mind on the Olympics was not a matter of adjustment, however, but resulted largely because the U.S. national women's team has had a change of coaches.
Arie Selinger, who led the U.S. team to a silver medal in 1984 but who was criticized by some for asking his charges to practice eight hours a day and to give up college scholarships and normal social lives, has been replaced by Taras Liskevych of University of the Pacific. Liskevych, a former assistant to Selinger, reportedly believes that there is more to life than volleyball and envisions his players practicing three or four hours a day, working at part-time jobs at least and going to college.
At the team's San Diego training base, Liskevych was quoted last June as saying, "I hope to prove that we can do things differently and still be a winning team like the one Arie had. I don't know if that will be a fact, but we have to get away from the idea that because Japan practices eight hours a day we have to practice 8 1/2 hours."
Studies May Be Interrupted
That would be just fine with Masakayan, a senior who said she hopes to graduate from UCLA in the winter quarter of 1987. She said that training with the U.S. team, for which she would seem to be a prime candidate, might mean quitting school before she graduates. She is willing to make that sacrifice if necessary, but "I really want to graduate."
UCLA opponents who did not see her in the lineup at the outset of this season probably hoped she had graduated. But that was wishful thinking. She and teammate Michelle Boyette, a senior setter and a second-team All-American last year, missed a tournament and two matches because they were playing with the U.S. team at the World University Games in Japan.
Although Coach Andy Banachowski's Bruins lost last week at Stanford (the first meeting between the teams since last year's NCAA final), UCLA has a 10-2 record and appears stronger than last year's national champions.
Masakayan thinks it is stronger. "When I came back (from the World University Games), the team had practiced for three weeks and looked great," she said.
'Best Buddy' Graduated
The only starter not back from last year, said Masakayan, is her "best buddy," Merja Connolly, the star middle blocker from Culver City who graduated and is playing pro volleyball in Italy.
Other returning starters include seniors Katie McGarrey of Santa Monica (Marymount High), a power hitter who received honorable mention for All-American last year, and Dawn Kenny, a U.S. Volleyball All-American middle blocker from Redondo Beach (South Torrance High).
Asked if she thinks the Bruins can repeat as NCAA champions, Masakayan said, "Looking at the starting team and the bench, there is no reason why we shouldn't. I think what helps is that the bench is nearly as good as the starters, and we have the most depth since I've been here."
Three prized freshmen, considered among the top recruits in the nation, are middle blocker Sharyl Bilas from Rolling Hills High, setter Ann Marie Boyer from Poway High and power hitter Jenny Crocker from El Cajon (Granite Hills High).
Masakayan said she thinks they are "the best three freshmen that I've seen come into college volleyball. They all have a lot of desire, are tough and are hard workers."
'Exciting to Watch'
Masakayan has all those qualities--and more. Though only 5-8, considered not particularly tall for her position, she has a vertical leap of 33 inches, which enables her to more than hold her own with six-footers.
Coach Banachowski calls her "exciting to watch" and said, "She is a great athlete with outstanding quickness and explosiveness, but above all Liz is a super competitor."
Is she satisfied with her game? Not yet.
She said she probably has to learn how to become more consistent. "I get a lot of kills, but I also make a lot of errors. I'm never really satisfied with playing well; I will be when I become more consistent.
"At this level, everyone has ability. It's a matter of how many times you can do it."