The ball is served. The other team’s defensive player passes it to the setter. The setter pushes the ball outside. The hitter spikes the ball as hard as she can.
Then Avreeta Singh flies out of nowhere to dig the ball up and keep the rally alive for her side.
This has been a regularly occurring scene – 1,654 times, to be exact – at UC Davis women’s volleyball matches over the past four years.
With her totals, Singh, the libero of the UC Davis women’s volleyball squad, surpassed Mary McClelland for the school’s all-time record for digs in a career.
“I’m not one that pays too much attention to statistics, but it is definitely a good feeling being able to accomplish that,” Singh said. “To know that my name is going to be on that list for a while is pretty awesome.”
What else is awesome is Singh’s journey to this point in her career. Volleyball has been a way of life for her since she was young.
The Fresno, Calif. native began playing the sport when she was in fourth grade, at the outside hitter position. As she got older and all the other girls around her starting getting taller, she developed into a libero – a player whose job it is to play defense.
“I started playing volleyball when I was in fourth grade and club in fifth grade,” Singh said. “I played through high school and have been playing for a while now. I was an outside because it didn’t really matter how tall you were when you were younger.”
Despite not growing physically, her game grew enormously. As the best libero to play at UC Davis, Singh enjoys the position and takes pride in her responsibilities on the court.
“The biggest thing as the libero is to control passing lineup,” Singh said. “If you feel that your team is getting aced, you have to make adjustments and move people around to make sure you are being successful in passing.
“When it comes to defense, you have to assume the leadership role in the back row. I would like to think I am the quarterback of the defense.”
What is amazing about Singh’s ability as a leader on the court and as a defensive player is that she didn’t play the position when she first started in volleyball.
This is because the libero position, based on the ability to play consistent defense, wasn’t established as a position in collegiate athletics until 2002.
Now Singh says she gets more satisfaction out of playing libero than any other position on the court.
“For me, the most satisfying thing is digging a really hard hit because it is so deflating to the other hitters,” said Singh. “They thought they hit the ball as hard as they could. I get more enjoyment out of defense than I do hitting a ball as hard as I can.”
It’s good for Singh that she enjoys frustrating opposing hitters, because in the game of volleyball, liberos are often over shadowed by the big hitters and crafty setters.
Singh likes having it that way, though.
“I kind of like being under the radar,” Singh said. “I don’t like having a lot of attention on me. You know what your job is and you just do it. That is enough for me.”
Coach Jamie Holmes isn’t as humble in talking about her star defensive player and the importance of having a solid libero.
“If you have a great libero – somebody who can pass and play defense – then you are pretty solid in the back court,” Holmes said. “Avreeta is our team captain and a steady, mature player. She is one who you can count on to pass the ball when we are not doing very well. She is one you can count on to be really focused during a timeout. She tries her hardest every day and her game speaks for itself.”
That game has helped the Aggies get out to a 12-6 start with a 3-1 mark in Big West Conference play.
How are they doing it, you ask?
“We have been successful because we have really good ball control,” Singh said. “Our first contact is really good and we are a really scrappy team defensively. That has been able to keep us in matches where we weren’t as physical as some of the teams.”
MAX ROSENBLUM wants you to check out Singh and the rest of the Aggies this Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. Hickey Gym is a fun place to be. RSVP at firstname.lastname@example.org.