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College Volleyball
Giving her all

Ava Saiers works to earn time on college volleyball court

Saiers continues to see playing time on one of the top junior college teams in California

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Ava Saiers works to earn time on college volleyball court

While at Calaveras High School, Ava Saiers only played volleyball for two years. She did not play as a freshman and lost her senior season because of COVID-19. But in the two years she got to play, Saiers made the most of her time on the court.

Saiers not only was a captain at Calaveras and helped lead her team deep in the playoffs both her sophomore and junior year, but she was also recognized as one of the top players in the league. In 2018 and 2019, Saiers was named as the Most Outstanding Player in the Mother Lode League.

Needless to say, Saiers didn’t spend very much time on the Calaveras bench.

Ava Saiers works to earn time on college volleyball court

In high school, Saiers was a player who never came off the court. But in college, she is working as hard as she can to spend whatever time she can get to be on the court. After missing her senior volleyball season, Saiers decided to continue her volleyball career and earned a roster spot at Feather River College, which has perhaps the best junior college volleyball program in California.

In 2019, Feather River won the CCCAA (California Community College Athletic Association) championship and is looking for a repeat performance.

With so much talent and high expectations at Feather River, Saiers was not guaranteed any minutes on the floor. She was told that she’d be given an opportunity to compete for playing time, and that’s all Saiers needed to hear.

Ava Saiers works to earn time on college volleyball court

“I love a good battle to fight for my spot,” Saiers said. “Everyone is here to win, and, if having me cheering on the sidelines super loud is what it takes, then that’s what it takes. I just want the best for our whole team.”

Feather River head coach Sarah Ritchie has been at the helm of the program since 2006 and has had some of the best high school volleyball players play for her. Even though Saiers’ high school resume was extremely impressive, it wasn’t anything that Ritchie hadn’t seen before. Ritchie lets it be known to all of her players right off the bat that it doesn’t matter what they did before they put on a Feather River uniform, it only matters what they do with one on, which will determine playing time.

“With us, it’s all about setting expectations with everyone,” Ritchie said. “Everyone on our team has been the MVP or Most Outstanding Player in high school; we have 19 of them. I just am open and transparent with them and let them know what their role is, and that role can change at any time. Ava can be a libero, and then I’m going to need her to play DS, and then sometimes I’m going to need her to sit on the bench and cheer for us with all her heart. All roles are important, and she has really bought into that concept.”

Ava Saiers works to earn time on college volleyball court

Saiers added, “Every day you are expected to perform, and, if you are not ready to perform or willing to, there’s always somebody there to take your spot. Knowing that pushes me to work my hardest every day.”

While Saiers missed out on her senior season of volleyball at Calaveras, she still was able to stay sharp by playing travel ball. However, even the speed and aggressiveness of travel volleyball didn’t quite compare to what she’s seeing as a member of the 26-1 Feather River squad.

“Everything is just really fast, and you have to rise to that level,” Saiers said. “Everything comes faster, harder and at different angles. I’m doing my best to focus in and make the adjustments.”

Ava Saiers works to earn time on college volleyball court

Not only is Saiers having to adjust to life on the college volleyball level, she’s also learning how to be a college student living away from home. Feather River College is located in Quincy, which is four hours north of Calaveras High School’s Mike Flock Gym. With no major cities around Quincy, Saiers can only focus on two things: volleyball and school.

“We are at a place in the middle of nowhere, so our main focus every day is volleyball, school and being the best, so that’s been really nice,” Saiers said. “If you are ever struggling, there’s always someone to lean on. We are a really tight group, and that makes it so much easier.”

Saiers has seen more and more of the court as her freshman season progresses. And with each match, she feels more comfortable on the floor. In 19 matches, Saiers has nine serving aces, six assists and 65 digs. Saiers has not only impressed Ritchie during matches but also during practices.

Ava Saiers works to earn time on college volleyball court

“Ava is probably the hardest working kid in my gym every day,” Ritchie said. “She comes to work, will run her head through a wall for you and gives 100% every single day. She’s a no-drama kid, which I love at the college level. She plays with all heart, and I wish I had 20 Ava’s on my team.”

After missing all of her senior season at Calaveras, Saiers is thrilled to be back on a team. And while she is not the centerpiece of the squad, Ritchie believes that her time will come.

“Ava knows that next year is her time, and I’m glad that I can keep getting her into matches,” Ritchie said. “She’s got heart, and she’s made big plays for us that has changed the whole momentum in matches because she is so fast and is a phenomenal athlete. She’s a very special kid, and we are very thankful to have her in our program.”

Ava Saiers works to earn time on college volleyball court

Saiers loved playing volleyball at Calaveras and feels the same about Feather River. But even after she completes her sophomore season in 2022, Saiers has no intention of hanging up her knee pads. Her goal is to transfer to a four-year university and continue her volleyball life. And if she has to start all over at the bottom and work her way to the top, Saiers will gladly accept the challenge.

“I want to play at the highest level that I can and to keep playing as long as possible,” she said.

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