From the small town of Durango, Colorado, to a full-ride scholarship to play at Sacramento State, sophomore Sloan Lovett chose volleyball over her family’s tradition of basketball.
The outside hitter for the Hornets began to play volleyball when she was in the seventh grade.
“My mom was a basketball player, but my best friend at the time was a volleyball player and her mom was a coach,” Lovett said. “She happened to be my first coach, so she kind of sparked my interest.”
Lovett would go on to play varsity volleyball for four years at Durango High School where she was a starter at the outside hitter position.
Her coach, Robin Oliger, could see the potential that Lovett had to offer.
“She came in as a freshman for tryouts and we could tell right away she was going to be a starter,” Oliger said. “Her first league match she had 25 kills. She had that special quality you don’t see in very many players.”
While in high school, her team would claim back-to-back regional championships, as well as Southwestern League championships in 2010 and 2011.
During her senior year, she was unanimously awarded the Southwestern League MVP, as well as being named to the first team all-state.
“Our boys soccer team came to watch and started calling Sloan, ‘Laser Beam,’ because she was drilling the ball down the line at this poor libero who didn’t have (a) chance in hell to get the ball,” Oliger said.
It was at a tournament in Colorado where Lovett’s skill-set would catch the eye of Sac State volleyball head coach, Ruben Volta.
“It just kind of happened somewhat by luck in terms of just being at the right court at the right time for us to see her,” Volta said. “Once [my coaches and I] saw her play, we really liked her.”
The coaches’ impression of Lovett would lead to her receiving a full-ride scholarship to play outside hitter for the Hornets; something she could not have imagined at the time.
“I think being recruited to Sac State and getting a full-ride scholarship was kind of a big deal,” Lovett said. “I came from a small town where just going to the state tournament was the biggest deal for my school. It was a dream come true.”
Upon arriving at Sac State, Lovett could remember feeling nervous and excited for the opportunity to play for a Division I school. Those feelings would escalate in her first year, especially during matches.
“I was extremely nervous and every time I went in I was so cautious,” she said.
Volta said the speed of play at the college level might have had an effect on Lovett at the time.
“She was nervous at times and a little quiet on the court,” Volta said. “Not necessarily with her teammates, but just getting used to the speed of play and being able to communicate at a faster pace than she was used to.”
Lovett would play in a total of 23 matches in her first season as a Hornet, starting four of them. With graduating players leaving at the end of the 2012 campaign, Lovett seized the opportunity for a chance to get consistent playing time for 2013.
It was during the first week of practice that Volta saw a sudden change in her style of play.
“I noticed about a week into this year’s practices that she had a little more bounce in her step and a little more energy,” Volta said. “I think she probably saw that some positions were up for grabs since we had graduated so many players. She was just someone that was going to seize the opportunity and not let it pass her up.”
There seemed to be not just an improvement from her freshman year, but a determination that would not be thwarted.
“I felt like I needed to step up,” Lovett said. “It’s all mental for me. Last year I was nervous, and now I’m going to be playing and I’m going to step up for this team. It’s just a new mentality”
Volta knew what he was getting in the young star when he recruited her.
“I recruited her for a reason,” he said. “I’ve seen her attack and hit, and I know she has a really good arm swing. She’s certainly playing with more confidence.”
Lovett’s quiet demeanor off the court is contrasted by her tenacity on the court, especially in the eyes of her mentors.
“She’s one of those players who is very quiet and unassuming, but when she comes out on the court, she unleashes a cannon,” Oliger said. “In my coaching career, I’ve never seen player quite like her.”
Lovett is hoping to continue her tradition of bounding success as she regularly impresses the coaches and fans of Sac State.
“I’ve become a more consistent and all-around player,” Lovett said. “I think the positiveness I’m trying to bring to the team is helping us achieve things.”