Cal State L.A. Setter Adriana Huerta Makes Leap
From Walk-on in '92 to All-American in '95
It seems like only yesterday that Cal State L.A. women's volleyball coach Mark Massey discovered a small, unknown and unrecruited setter playing in his volleyball class. That was four years ago. Little did he realize that this raw, undersized player would someday become an NCAA Division II All-American.
Adriana Huerta (Roosevelt HS), who at 5-foot-2 is the smallest setter in the CCAA, became just the third player in Cal State L.A. history to earn All-America honors, when the American Volleyball Coaches Association released the All-America teams. She joins Korina Kemp (1993 and '94) and Andrea Ferchaw (1992 and '94) as Golden Eagle volleyball players to earn All-America recognition.
"Adriana has been sort of a dream story for us," says Massey. "Initially, we didn't even think she had the ability to play college volleyball. She didn't grow up around it, she didn't play club volleyball as virtually all collegiate players do and she didn't come from a strong high school program.
"Yet, somehow, we threw her into our very complicated swing offense and her intelligence and desire took over. She became like a second coach on the floor for us."
Huerta played volleyball at Roosevelt High School, but her main sport was basketball. She was a starter for a Roughrider team that captured the city title in her senior season. When she came to Cal State L.A., she had no intention of trying out for the volleyball team.
When Massey first approached her in class about walking on to the team, his original intent was to use her as a back-up setter. But the recruit he had penciled in as the starter left the team (and Massey doesn't even recall her name) before the start of the 1992 season, so Huerta was forced into action immediately.
She responded with an All-America type season, breaking both the season and career records for set assists at Cal State L.A. in 1992 alone with 1,559 assists. Of greater significance, however, was her affect on the team.
Before Huerta arrived, the CSLA volleyball team had won as many as 10 games in a season just twice and was coming off a 9-19 campaign in 1991. In Huerta's first season running the offense, the Golden Eagles set a school record with 25 wins while advancing all the way to the NCAA Division II Final Four in their first-ever playoff appearance.
Cal State L.A. continued that level of success throughout Huerta's career, winning 20 or more games in each of her four seasons and advancing to the NCAA regional finals or beyond each season.
Huerta ends her collegiate career holding every setting record at Cal State L.A. She also set a new NCAA tournament standard with 90 assists in the Golden Eagles' playoff win over Grand Canyon on November 17.
"I think the most remarkable thing about Adriana winning the award this season is that she did it without having all of her guns around her for the full season," says Massey. "Our two-time All-American outside hitter (Ferchaw) missed nearly half the season with a broken hand, and our all-region middle blocker (Kaili Kimura) missed some action with a sprained ankle. Otherwise, her numbers would have been even more impressive."
"She may be only 5-2, but in her heart she plays like she's six feet tall," says Massey. "I think other coaches appreciate that what she has accomplished she has done with her heart and with her head and not with natural physical ability. That's why she's an All-American."