Carly Wopat returns home to kick off senior year at Stanford

Carly Wopat is starting her senior season in college back where she started playing volleyball.

The former Dos Pueblos High star will be in the starting lineup when the No. 3-ranked Stanford women?s volleyball team visits the Thunderdome on Friday afternoon to play UCSB in the season opener for both teams. The match begins at noon.

Stanford two-time All-American Carly Wopat begins her senior year playing at home.

Stanford’s two-time All-American Carly Wopat begins her senior year playing in her home town.

Wopat is a two-time All-American middle blocker for the Cardinal. The last time she played an indoor match in Santa Barbara was during her senior year at Dos Pueblos in 2009.

?I remember how packed and crazy our home gym would be on game days,? she recalled in an email interview. ?My high school teammates and I also had so much fun on road trips, and got into plenty of mischief. So many great memories were made then.?

Carly’s looking forward to playing again in front of her friends and family in her hometown.

?It’s so cool to get the opportunity to play in the gym where I grew up watching UCSB sporting events,? she said. ?And, there is just something special about going to play in my hometown where I grew up. ?It’s like going back to my roots, back to where it all began. ?It only seems fitting. ?And I can’t wait to look around and see all my friends and family in the crowd.?

She is inspired by her friends, family and teammates. And, she is lifted by the spirit of her twin sister, Sam.

?Her presence will always be with me,? Carly said. ?I know many of my teammates feel similarly as well.?

Sam, also a member of the Stanford team, passed away in a Stanford Hospital eight days after attempting suicide in March of 2012. She was 19.

The sisters grew up playing volleyball together, led Dos Pueblos to back-to-back CIF-SS Division 1 finals in 2008 and 2009, won the title in ?09 and received scholarships to Stanford.

In an interview with ESPN-W, Carly said she never considered quitting volleyball after Sam?s passing.

“Through the whole thing, my one steady thing was volleyball,” she said. “I knew I had to keep playing for myself and for Sam. It makes me happy. If I wasn’t playing, I don’t know what I’d be doing.”

She received tremendous support from her volleyball teammates, coaches, friends and the entire Stanford athletic community.

“It’s pretty much indescribable,” volleyball coach John Dunning told ESPN-W of the support for Carly and the entire team. “I’m so proud of how everyone rallied and wrapped our arms around each other to do the best we could. But it’s an unimaginable thing and the effect it has on everyone … it’s not possible to overstate it.”

The team dedicated the 2012 season to Sam, and Carly went out and had an incredible year. She was named All-American and All-Pac-12, and finished in the top 10 in the conference in hitting percentage (.399) and blocks per set (1.45).

“She is an amazingly strong person to have done what she did last year,” Dunning said in the ESPN-W story. “When I look at her, I shake my head, and I marvel at her strength.”

As she enters her senior season, the 6-2 Wopat has been named one of the top-30 candidates for the 2013 Senior CLASS Award. The name is an acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School. The award focuses on the total student-athlete and encourages students to use their platform in athletics to make a positive impact as leaders in their communities.

Carly said her personal goals this season are “to improve every day and better myself as a player, teammate, leader and overall person. I want to go to sleep every night satisfied, knowing that I gave that day everything I could give. A phrase I like to live by is “carpe diem”.

The team goal is to win a national championship. The Cardinal went 30-4 and reached the regional final last year. All six starters return from that team.

?We have a countdown on the white board in our locker room to keep us focused on our ultimate goal of getting to Seattle,? said Carly. ?Additionally, our team quote for the season is ?Today give all that you have, for what you keep inside you lose forever? ? Owen Marecic.

?Every time we have a workout, watch video, go out to practice, or step on the court for a match, we want to remind ourselves to give absolutely everything we’ve got,? she continued. ? A national championship isn’t really won in that final day, but rather in the hours and days of determined and united preparation leading up to it.?

When Carly and the Cardinal step on the Thunderdome court, they?ll be facing a Gaucho team with a new coach. Nicole Lantagne Welch took over for the legendary Kathy Gregory, who retired after 38 years at the helm.

?She has always been the UCSB women’s volleyball head coach in my years growing up,? Carly said. ?I even attended her summer volleyball camp when I was 13. ?So, it is a bit of a bummer that I won’t be playing against her, but things change. I wish the team and the new head coach the best of luck this season.?