Within a month, Carroll graduate Jacqueline Quade is trading the court for the beach.
The Illinois senior graduates at the end of this term and will be enrolling in graduate school at UCLA where she'll be competing for the Bruins' beach volleyball team.
“I think (the recruiting process) was definitely easier this time around,” Quade said in a phone interview. “It's easier when you're older and you know what kind of things are important and what you're looking for. It was a lot less stressful.”
She chose the Bruins, the two-time defending national champions, over Long Beach State and Washington.
“I was really looking for a good combination of things,” she said. “I wanted a place where my degree will hold a lot of weight. It's a great university, everyone's heard of UCLA. That aspect of it and just going somewhere that's going to push me outside my comfort zone. It's a supercompetitive program so having to go into a new environment, being able to train with the top girls in that sport is a huge challenge.”
One of the challenges will be gaining strength on the playing surface.
“I definitely need to practice moving in sand,” she said. “It's very different. I haven't played beach in a very long time. I focused on indoor. Just making that change, doing some training in the sand and getting used to jumping in the sand. That aspect and just overall the beach game is a lot more ball control.”
Quade will have two seasons of eligibility with the Bruins starting in spring 2020. She wanted to extend her time spent as a student-athlete while also leaving other career doors open since her undergraduate degree is in marketing and she will be pursuing a graduate degree in education.
“Definitely thinking after UCLA going to try and keep playing, if I'm able to do so,” she said. “I'm not sure, yet, if that's beach or going back to indoor. That's something I'll have to decide afterward, but I'm leaving some doors pretty open.”
Before that, however, Quade and the No. 24 Illini (16-12, 11-8 Big Ten) have their final regular season match at Northwestern today.
With seven conference teams ranked in the top 25, the constant challenge has forced the team to grow throughout the season.
“We were kind of putting in some new players at different positions so it was a learning curve,” said Quade, who leads the conference with 4.18 kills per set. “It's been a really fun year to see how much our team can progress in one year. That's been really awesome, getting to play with some of the younger players and seeing how much they can grow in one year and eventually how much they're going to improve in the future.”
With the NCAA Tournament looming, there's always some work to be done.
“I think (the conference competition) can bring out your true colors and I think, for us, it forced us to take every day and get back in the gym,” she said. “ 'This team beat us here, how do we make that better?' Hopefully all those challenges have prepared us for the tournament in December when it's do or die.”
The NCAA Tournament field will be announced Sunday with tournament play beginning at campus sites Thursday.