Become the best defenseman on the volleyball court – Orange County Register

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The first time Savahna Costello heard she was going to be a Libero, she cried. And they weren’t happy tears from someone who is naturally a happy person.

The tears weren’t because Costello was about to become the most important player on a volleyball court. They weren’t streaming from his 12-year-old face because Costello was about to take on one of the most demanding and thankless jobs on the athletic spectrum; she had no idea that this decision by her club coach, Phil Sutherland, was going to set her on the path to college stardom and eventual spot on the US national team.

No. Costello was in tears because the Liberos couldn’t serve.

“When I took my under-12 volleyball to the next level, I couldn’t push the ball to put it on. My coach wanted me to be a Libero and I cried because the Liberos couldn’t serve at that time and I love to serve, ”recalls Costello. “I was happy after the next year because they changed the rules and the Liberos were allowed to serve.

“I had to hide my tears because I love to play.”

No one knows what little things can make a child cry. But it didn’t take long for Costello’s tears of frustration to turn into tears of passion for a job she’s redefining at Cal State Fullerton. This season, the junior libero was named Big West Defensive Player of the Year, Windy City Invitational MVP and Libero UC Riverside Classic All-Tournament.

Her 5.4 digs per set ranked her 13th nationally, while her 531 digs this season were sixth in program history. In the three seasons, Costello’s 1,197 digs have his sixth on Cal State Fullerton’s career ladder.

They also brought him an invitation to try for the United States National Volleyball Team. Costello’s game this season and his national rankings in key stats like serve / receive percentage and collects per set earned him the coveted invitation to Colorado Springs in February for three days of practice.

“I think about it every day,” she says. ” I can not wait. I’m so excited. I never thought this would have happened and now that it is happening I am overwhelmed with excitement.

Costello can afford to be overwhelmed with excitement as she plays a position that can overwhelm even the most determined athlete.

Simply put, the libero volleyball player is a defensive specialist. They wear a different colored uniform and are not allowed to attack on the height of the net. You often see them digging in preparation for their teammates’ attack. Cal State Fullerton volleyball coach Ashley Preston said the job required “to be the best serve / receive passer and the best defenseman on the court.”

To excel in two of the most important disciplines on the field only scratches the surface when it comes to the demands placed on the Libero.

Savahna Costello has posted double-digit recoveries in every game except two this season for the Titans. She hopes to earn a spot on the United States Women’s National Volleyball Team in February. (Photo by Matt Brown / Courtesy of Cal State Fullerton)

To this you can add being a mind reader. Along with digging balls, looking for wrong passes, and covering the backs of their other five teammates, Liberos are tasked with reading the opponent’s attack and adjusting positions on the fly. She needs to understand and deal with everything that is happening on both sides of the court and react instantly.

So with the Libero you have a player with far-sighted skills and the highest volleyball IQ on the court, as well as the lowest respect for their body when it comes to jumping onto the court to dig. balls and scratch wandering passes. It’s a combination of Nostradamus, Einstein, and Kamikaze pilot. From a sporting standpoint, imagine the combination of a goalie in soccer (with that different colored uniform) and a middle linebacker in soccer.

“We can’t rely on blockers. It’s always good when the lineup is right and the block is still there, but it’s you and the forward, ”said Costello. “It doesn’t matter what they do. I still have to lift the ball. A big part of this stance is anticipating what an opposing attacker is going to do. The more reading and eye work you do, the easier it is.

“The bullets hit you so fast that if you don’t read and work with your eyes, you’re overwhelmed. These women are swinging at such a fast pace that if you don’t do the eye work and stay in one place, the ball is coming in so fast you won’t make it. The eye work before the game is just as important as the footwork after the striker’s shots.

What makes the Libero such a crucial and mentally exhausting position is that it requires total focus and anticipation without having the same margin of error offered by the other positions. A batter can make a play off, then come back with a vapor trail leaving a crowd-pleasing kill. A passer can redeem a missed serve or a stray pass by putting the next one on a plate for his batter. A center blocker can be blocked or tangled in the net, but a play later, stuff an opposing hitter with a perfect block.

The libero? The only way to make up for a mistake like a bad pass or a failed search is to not make another. Outside of serve, the Libero cannot have an offensive effect on the game in terms of points, yet a Libero does not have the luxury of making a play off – ever. Because if she does, it can – and will cost – her team a game.

What makes Costello such a great Libero is not only his ability to excel at serving / receiving and digging, but also his relentless focus on doing homework on opponents, his ability to process and communicate that. to his teammates and his ability to compartmentalize his mistakes. She played the position for so long that it became part of her.

“She’s the storyteller of what’s going on on the opposing side, which makes it easy for everyone to play defense around her,” said Preston. “The particularity of Savahna is its ability to earn us points on the service line; she has a great short serve and kicks teams out of their system.

“Savahna is a real student of the game and loves watching movies and asking me questions about what she can do to be better for the next game.”

Being a libero is now a tearless position. As Costello put it, she “wears the jersey, gives the pass and has the opportunity.” It’s a liberating feeling for a libero.

“Now I am grateful. I love the libero position. I think it’s the best, ”she said. “I wouldn’t choose to be anything else.”

Did you know…?

That until his senior year at La Sierra High in Riverside, Costello wanted to play college volleyball out of state. “Then my senior year ended and I decided I didn’t want to get out of state anymore. I wanted to come here. I wanted to be a part of the change in this program, to be part of building the program and to leave it better than I found it, ”she said.

She said so

Costello, on the requirements of being a Libero, “Honestly, you just do it when you’re on the pitch. You don’t think, ‘Oh my God, another round of this.’ It doesn’t look like that. But after the game, when you go to the locker room and talk about everything and you come home and say ‘Whoa. How did I do that? ‘ You watch a movie and you say ‘Whoa. I did a lot.’ You don’t feel it when you are there, but you do feel it the next day when your body hurts. But I’ve been doing it for so long, it doesn’t have a huge mental effect on me because it’s my job.

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