The Lone Star
Imagine coming from a place where cowboy boots were a commonality, where any barbeque place beats the road trip down to San Diego for Phil’s BBQ, where people use the phrase, “Ya darn tootin’!” Now imagine going from that environment to Southern California; very different wouldn’t you say? Welcome to Cassidy Pickrell’s life.
For most people, transitioning from living at home to going away for college is already a huge adjustment, and Pickrell is no exception to that rule with her circumstances being even more extenuating than most coming from the suburbs rights outside of Dallas, Texas.
“I’m really homesick right now,” Pickrell said. “It kinda comes in phases ‘cause when I first got here, I was like, ‘Yes! I’m here! This is college!’ Then after that first week, it hit me hard. Then I was fine, back on the peak. But these past few weeks, I’ve just really been missing home…I wanna see my dog!”
Luckily the 6’1” freshman has volleyball to keep her mind occupied for the time being. Although she admits that she was always one of the tallest in her class, Pickrell did not start off playing the sport destined for those blessed with height. In fact, Pickrell initially started playing soccer. It was not until her 8th grade year and being around volleyball so often because of her younger sister, Kylie, that Pickrell decided to make the switch from soccer to volleyball, a day she will never forget — her 14th birthday.
“It was a ‘gnarly’ time!” Pickrell said laughing. “I’m still learning how to use the word ‘gnarly’ so I’m using it whenever I can. But when I first started, I found myself kicking the ball a lot more than other girls. It was legal and I didn’t like diving, so that was my technique for a while.”
That alternative technique must have helped because Pickrell picked up on the sport very quickly. As a freshman, she made the Varsity team at her high school, Coppell High School, a feat not many were successful enough to accomplish at her school. She attributes much of her skill and technique to Texas Advantage Volleyball, a club team she started on when she was 14 and continued throughout high school. After several successful high school and club seasons with multiple state and national titles under her belt, it was time for Pickrell to start her career here at UCI.
“[Cassidy] brings such a positive competitive energy to the court and never stops fighting at any point in the match,” teammate Arden Davis said. She is always looking for ways to pick up her teammates both on and off the court. The positive influence she brings to this team is one that does not go unnoticed.”
Volleyball, like many other team sports, has a slight glitch in this idea of a “team sport.” Yes, all 17 girls are a team and are working towards one common goal. But only six players are on the court at a time — this presents a problem. Pickrell as an outside hitter is competing against two of her teammates for the outsider hitter position on the team. One might think this in-house friendly competition can get complicated.
“When we started off, it was kinda a blood battle; it wasn’t good,” Pickrell admitted. “But now we are very supportive of each other. It doesn’t matter which two outside hitters are out there; I know we’re going to do great things. Your shirt says UC Irvine, it doesn’t say your last name.”
As a young athlete, Pickrell continued to impress throughout her interview not just because of her impressive volleyball background, but also because of the amount of respect that she has for her coach, her teammates and this opportunity that she has been given.
As if her skills and attitude weren’t outstanding enough, there was one crucial aspect of Pickrell that many athletes lack: an utter and complete respect and gratitude for her coach, Paula Weishoff. She shamelessly idolizes Coach Weishoff and even admitted that her favorite volleyball player and role model is, nonetheless, Coach Weishoff.
“She is an incredible coach and she has an incredible background,” Pickrell said. “She just knows everything about everything. She’s just an amazing person. I actually confessed that whenever I get this homesick, I pretend that she’s my mom and our assistant coach, Jaime, is my dad.”
At this point, Pickrell’s story seems very familiar — young athlete who came in late to the sport, natural talent for her new sport, utmost gratitude for her situation here at UCI, admitting that she would not trade anything for going to school here at UCI. So what makes her story different? For Pickrell, the difficulty of not being able to see her family as she continues her volleyball career is a setback.
“I am in an entirely different state, an entirely different location, entirely different everything,” Pickrell said. “But at the same time, I have also been given the opportunity to play under the best coaching staff that there is out there.”
Pickrell isn’t exaggerating; she described some of the native things that Texans do and say, and different is an understatement. She laughed as she clarified that she does not live on a farm, own horses or drive a tractor. But cowboy boots are a must, trucks are the Cali-equivalent of the 1000s of Honda Civics that native SoCal natives see and 2-stepping at bars for high school graduations is a big event. And of course, ‘ya’ll’ is a regular Pickrell’s everyday vernacular.
Aside from her differing Texan habits, Pickrell shares some of the same dreams as other aspiring volleyball players out there. She hopes to play volleyball in Europe post-graduation from Irvine. And as for long-term goals: Pickrell dreams of becoming a reporter an anchor for ESPN or FOX Sports. But for now, ya’ll better be on the lookout for Pickrell’s name in the news; she will be making headlines.