By Stetson University Athletic Communications
a senior standout for The Citadel indoor volleyball team, Rachael
Farrell had her postgraduate plans all figured out. She wanted to stay
at her alma mater to begin her master’s degree while serving as a
graduate assistant coach for the Bulldogs volleyball program.
But the best-laid
plans often go astray, and when Farrell’s opportunity fell through
during her final semester, she started contacting coaches from all over
the country looking for an open GA spot.
One of those coaches to receive an email from Farrell was then-Stetson head coach Tim Loesch.
“Coach Tim got back
to me and said, ‘We don’t have a GA position, but how would you feel
about playing sand for a year to use up your eligibility?’” Farrell
said. “I said, ‘Do you want to let me come play sand for a year? I would love to.’”
There was just one small problem.
Farrell had never
had any formal sand training. However, she got to work right away and
came down to Siesta Key, Fla., in June to play in a beach tournament
with current Hatter Taylor Kennedy. That is when assistant coach Meghan
Bryant got her first look at Farrell playing sand.
“We actually had
played The Citadel in indoor, so we remembered her,” Bryant said. “We
had seen her in action. Actually, she lit us up that game, so we knew
what kind of athlete she was. It was just a matter of seeing her play
It didn’t take long
for Bryant to see Farrell’s potential. While many players have
difficulty making the transition from indoor to sand, Farrell seemed to
be handling it quite well.
“She is an
incredible athlete, she is very strong, and she obviously had very good
training at The Citadel,” Bryant said. “It was interesting, because she
was still learning the (sand) game, and you could tell how much she
didn’t understand some of the basics.”
Learning curve aside, Bryant was still impressed with Farrell’s ability to stay calm under pressure.
“The thing that I
really liked the most about watching her play was her ability to keep
her composure,” Bryant added. “A lot of players get easily frustrated in
sand when it is just two girls out there. Although she was making
little errors here and there, she never let it affect her play. I
thought that was awesome.”
Soon after that tournament, Stetson made a formal scholarship offer to Farrell, which she eagerly accepted.
There was just one more small problem.
“At that point, I
had not been accepted (to Stetson) yet. I had not even come to visit,”
Farrell said. “In a span of about three weeks, I applied to Stetson, got
accepted, found an apartment, moved down here, and started taking
things were falling into place for Farrell. But how would she handle
fitting in with her new team and experiencing her first extended
training in sand volleyball?
“I did not realize
how different playing sand was,” Farrell said. “I felt like the fall was
a huge learning curve for me. I was really thankful that sand was a
spring sport, because where I am now is nowhere near where I was in the
fall. The girls have taken me in and helped me learn how different
everything is. It has been a blast, and I love it. I really wish I had
another year that I could play.”
Farrell is making
the most of her one season of eligibility, going 8-7 with teammate Julie
Bassett at the No. 2 and No. 3 positions. Farrell credits Bassett with
teaching her a lot of the nuances of the game itself. The pair have
helped lead the third-year Stetson sand program to its most successful
season to date, with a 14-3 record entering this week's Atlantic Sun
“I feel really
honored, really grateful for this opportunity,” Farrell said. “I have
grown up always being on a sports team, so going to school and not being
on a sports team just seemed like such a crazy concept to me. I was so
thankful to even just be around the girls, so to be able to contribute
on the sand with the team is a very humbling and amazing experience.”
Farrell and the
Hatters will look to capture the A-Sun Championship this Friday and
Saturday in Fort Myers, Fla. Although Farrell was not part of last
year’s team that came within a few points of the title, she is already
immersed in the determination this year’s squad has to accomplish its
“I know it would
mean the world to me, and the whole team,” Farrell said about winning
the A-Sun title. “The returners have been working since the end of
conference last year. This team is the most driven team I have ever been
on. From day one, it wasn’t, ‘Oh, I think we can win the conference,’
it was, ‘We are going to win the conference.’ Every day, we are coming
out and putting in everything we can, working on every aspect trying to
get better. We know when it counts we are going to finish it.”