Athlete in Focus: Mireya Garcia

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Senior Mireya Garcia leaps to spike a ball.

Senior Mireya Garcia “has deadly hops.”

Her jumping ability and ice-cold confidence combine to make her “the number one player on the team,” said Kelly Collins, head coach of the girls’ volleyball team. “When you watch her play, she’s never going to let a ball drop.”

A three-year member of the varsity volleyball team, Garcia returns to the court this year for her senior campaign as a dynamic player and leader. Her ferocious play has even earned her an offer and a scholarship from DePaul University, a Division I school.

But back in middle school, volleyball was not even on Garcia’s radar. “I didn’t even consider playing volleyball. My big sport was softball and that’s what I was focused on,” Garcia said.

Her plan was to play softball and basketball in high school. Then, in sixth grade, she was placed in Don August’s gym class and everything changed. At the time, August coached the OPRF girls’ varsity team and was always scouting potential players. Her athletic prowess caught his eye, so he convinced her to try out at Julian. She made the team and liked it enough to join a travel team.

However, volleyball was still an afterthought. “I didn’t want to play volleyball in high school. It was kind of unrealistic, but I wanted to go to college and play softball,” said Garcia.

Her freshman year, she played both volleyball and softball, softball taking precedence. Then, during her sophomore year, she was called up to play on the varsity volleyball team.

“I was really excited to be there. It was really fun. Playing with the older girls taught me a lot of things, ” Garcia said.

Garcia’s sophomore season convinced her to fully commit to volleyball. It also convinced her to begin the college recruiting process. “I emailed a lot of schools and got some interest, but not a lot. I got pretty discouraged,” she said.

Instead of getting rattled, she returned the next season and dazzled. Garcia tore up the court last year with 120 kills, 64 digs and 21 blocks. Her coach noticed a marked improvement from her first to second varsity season.

“She definitely developed a self-confidence and became much more consistent,” said Collins. “If there was a ball that needed to be put away, Mireya was the one to do it.”

If there was a ball that needed to be put away, Mireya was the one to do it.”

— Kelly Collins

Garcia’s cool-calm-and-collected play caught the attention of the colleges that had been indifferent. After her sophomore season, she attended a summer camp at DePaul University in Chicago. Just as she caught the attention of August and Collins, she also piqued DePaul’s interest.

“During the fall of my junior year, I went on a visit (to DePaul). We went through the whole athletic department and they showed me the best places on campus,” said Garcia. “It felt like a family, like everyone there was there to help you.”

When DePaul offered her a spot on the volleyball team and a “substantial” scholarship, she accepted, opening the next chapter in her story.

Garcia’s volleyball journey began in her sixth grade gym class, eclipsed by softball. Seven years later, there’s nowhere else she’d rather be.

When asked why she chose volleyball, Mireya took a deep breath and paused. The faraway look in her eyes made it clear she was no longer in the room, instead lost in some memory of a court somewhere.

Then, a soft smile slowly lit up her face as she said, “During the really intense games, especially when we’re at home and everyone is cheering, those are the moments that make you think, ‘I could not be doing anything else.’”

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