In 2015, middle blocker Berkeley Oblad joined the University of Utah women’s volleyball team. Three years into her collegiate career, she is finally seeing improvement in her game since she first joined the program. Because of that improvement, she has earned two Pac-12 Volleyball Player of the Week honors this season.
“I can tell I am a much better player now than I was when I first got here,” Oblad said.
While her improvement has been showing on the court, there is still things she wants to accomplish. This season, she has been working on strengthening her blocks and becoming more aware of what’s happening on both sides of the court. While she has found that being a student-athlete is a whirlwind of excitement, she wants any young athlete who may follow in her footsteps to make sure they understand the game from the inside out.
“My biggest advice for anyone coming to play volleyball is you need to learn how to read the other side of the net before you get [to the collegiate level],” Oblad said. “That’s probably one of the hardest parts of the game.”
Playing in a Division I conference presents a variety of challenges, but Oblad and her teammates use each match to learn and improve. One way the Utes unite and prepare for their matches is by having a dance party in the locker room. Before every game, Oblad said, they all spend time in a dance battle. Two people stand in the middle of the team circle and dance, and everyone has to refrain from smiling or laughing. If someone does laugh or smile, they’re out. It goes on until one person remains. This is their way of calming any pregame nerves while loosening up so they can hit the court with the mindset and attitude they need.
College athletics provides a special opportunity to find a home away from home. The Utes have created a family-like atmosphere within the volleyball program. Alexa Van Komen, a freshman setter for the Utes, said it was always a goal of hers to compete for a university and get the student-athlete collegiate experience.
“It’s everything and more than I ever expected,” Van Komen said.
Oblad has seen the positive benefits of being a student-athlete. Her younger teammates, like Van Komen, will remain at Utah after Oblad’s time as a Ute comes to an end. They will be able to continue building the team atmosphere that Oblad has soaked up and will continue to make the most of their time as a Ute.
“It’s really fun. I love the team, the facilities are amazing and we get so much support,” Van Komen said. “It’s a lot different than high school, but it’s a lot of fun. Our team gets along really well, like a huge family, and we just have a great time together.”