Chelsey Sandberg: leader, jokester, friend

By By Bubba Brown, Staff Writer

By Bubba Brown, Staff Writer

If you hear laughter coming from Crimson Court, chances are, Chelsey Sandberg is the cause. She describes herself as a laid-back person who definitely has a goofy side, and her teammates say she is one of the funniest people they know.

“She is the funniest person ever,” said junior Karolina Bartkowiak. “She is hilarious and always making people laugh.”

In addition to being a jokester, Sandberg spends a lot of time with her boyfriend and her family, as well as making sure she keeps up with her schoolwork. When she’s not hanging out with loved ones or cracking jokes, she’s playing middle blocker for the Ute volleyball team.

The senior contributes to the Utes’ success by keeping the team loose as well as with her volleyball skill. Sandberg has been an important cog in Utah’s 4-0 start and has notched 26
kills this season, as well as posting a team-leading .510 hitting percentage. She also makes an impact defensively, as the senior leads the Utes with 16 blocks.

Bartkowiak was quick to heap praise upon Sandberg’s volleyball prowess.

“She’s a great middle blocker,” Bartkowiak said. “She’s so fast that people can’t stop her, and her blocking is just great.”

But Sandberg wasn’t always a volleyball player. In fact, it wasn’t until a coach prodded her in the direction of volleyball that she decided to give the sport a try.

“I started playing when I was 15,” Sandberg said. “My softball coach told me to think about playing club volleyball, so I tried out for the high school team.”

She made the team and excelled as a volleyball player, earning all-region and all-state honorable mention honors during her senior year.

“During my senior year, I realized I could play college volleyball,” Sandberg said.

In addition to volleyball, she established herself as an all-around athlete during her time at Copper Hills High School, also lettering in basketball and softball. She was honored as the Copper Hills High School Female Athlete of the Year in 2006.

Sandberg signed with Snow College out of high school, but Utah head coach Beth Launiere thought she was good enough to play for the Utes.

“Her plan was to go to a junior college, but we thought she was athletic enough to play at our level,” Launiere said.

As a freshman, Sandberg saw limited action in 14 games, highlighted by an eight-block performance against then-Utah Valley State College, and a match-ending kill against New Mexico in the Mountain West Conference Tournament.

“When I started here at Utah as a freshman, I didn’t play a lot,” Sandberg said. “Watching last year’s seniors that year helped me develop as a player. It helped me find my timing.”
Launiere said once Sandberg gained confidence, she began displaying her skills.
“She didn’t have confidence in the beginning,” Launiere said. “When she got it, she kind of took off. She’s made herself into a great Division-I player.”

The confidence came during her sophomore year, during which she started 22 games and established herself as one of the conference’s best players, finishing the season eighth in the MWC in blocks per game with 1.18. One of her best performances came against New Mexico, grabbing seven kills, 11 blocks and five digs. She once again made big plays in the conference tournament, notching five kills and nine blocks in the championship game against UNLV.

Sandberg continued to develop as a player during her junior year in 2007. She started 20 matches, played in nine others and reprised her role as a top middle blocker, totaling 1.14 blocks per set. She also had one of the best offensive games of any player in the conference all season when she had 11 kills against BYU, which was the fourth-highest mark in a match in the conference all season. She continued to make her presence felt offensively, hitting at a .857 clip against Santa Clara, as well as hitting for a .429 percentage and earning seven kills in Utah’s first-round victory in the NCAA Tournament against Furman.

Bartkowiak attributes much of Sandberg’s success to her presence on the court.
“She brings so much energy,” Bartkowiak said. “She is such a consistent player, and she’s one of the leaders on the court.”

Additionally, Launiere believes Sandberg has grown as a person during her time at Utah. “She has grown in every aspect of her life,” Launiere said.

Illustrating her growth, Sandberg described her favorite memory of Utah volleyball with an answer that would surprise those who don’t know her.

“Last year when we played Colorado State for the conference championship, I rolled my ankle, so Jennifer (Lanting) came in and played right side,” Sandberg said. “She came in and helped us a lot. I really liked seeing her step up.”

But those who know Sandberg would say the fact that her best memory as a Ute is seeing both the team and another player do well is part of her personality.

In fact, the senior, who’s majoring in interpersonal communication, says she wants to devote her life to helping people and working with the disabled.

Bartkowiak says that’s just a part of who Sandberg is.

“She’s always willing to help anyone, no matter what,” she said.

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Courtesy of Britney Green