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TMC's Aubrey Bekendam is finding the perfect fit at Master’s

Posted: September 11, 2013 9:03 p.m.
Updated: September 11, 2013 9:03 p.m.

The Master's College's Aubrey Bekendam grew up watching her sisters play volleyball. Now she's starring on the court.

 

 

When Aubrey Bekendam left home for college, she had a slight fear she’d feel out of place.

She’s a small-town kid from rural Northern California who migrated south to play volleyball at The Master’s College.

“I thought I’d kind of be the odd ball,” Bekendam says.

It couldn’t be further from the truth.

Last year, Bekendam stepped in as a freshman starter for TMC and played a hybrid setter/hitter role.

She was named NAIA Freshman of the Year after the Mustangs advanced to their first NAIA National tournament in school history.

Now a sophomore, Bekendam has taken over as the full-time setter for a TMC team ranked 22nd in the nation and off to a 10-2 start.

And the soft-spoken girl from the town of Orland — population 7,291 — is still getting better.

“You really don’t start noticing her until she starts playing, and once she starts playing you just go, ‘wow’” says Mike Haworth, a former club coach of Bekendam’s.

Haworth was the one who first trained Bekendam to play the setter position in high school.

He saw that she possessed the versatile skill set to be able to attack, block and play defense, which are all side duties of a setter. And at 5-foot-10, she’s got the size to do it.

Haworth also coached Bekendam’s three older sisters, Tessa, Tanya and Brook.

Tessa played volleyball for Butte Community College in Montana while Tanya and Brook both played sports at TMC.

Haworth says Aubrey may very well be the most athletically gifted of the bunch.

Tanya may have picked up on that long ago.

“We’ve always kind of dragged her along with us to tournaments and games and practices our whole lives,” Tanya says of Aubrey. “She was always that little kid on the sideline and we were like, ‘You know what, she’s going to be really good when she gets older.’”

Tanya played middle blocker for the Mustangs from 2006-2009 and Brook was a guard on TMC’s basketball team from 2007-2010 while also playing volleyball at the school her senior year.

Though Aubrey was being recruited by a few NCAA Division I and II schools, she quickly decided to follow her sisters at TMC once she paid a visit to the campus and met with the team.

“I chose it mostly because when I came, the team and the coaches were so inviting and the whole environment of it,” Aubrey says of her college choice. “It was kind of a blessing coming form a public school to a Christian school.”

Coming out of high school, Aubrey was being looked at by NCAA Division I Sacramento State and Division II Chico State. Haworth also said there were others showing interest, but the small school competing in the NAIA seemed a better fit for Aubrey.

“Her family was always really athletic,” says TMC head coach Bobby Blanken. “She had the option to go to a couple (other) schools, but she decided to go to Master’s.”

Aubrey’s success has come from a combination of natural ability and constant training. Even when a torn ligament in her foot kept her off her feet from January through May of this year, the practice continued.

She perfected her handwork by setting volleyballs while on her knees.

During summer break, when she was finally healed, Aubrey ran sprints on the dirt roads that weaved through her family’s dairy farm. It was easier than driving a half hour to the local athletic club.

She is the type of recruit who has helped TMC rise from obscurity and onto the national scene when it comes to NAIA volleyball.

Last season, Bekendam had 349 assists, 120 kills, 174 digs and 40 blocks in 29 matches played.

She’s already at 372 assists and 118 digs just 12 matches into the year.

“There’s no question that she has the ability, the talent,” Blanken says. “I think for her, honestly, she made a step in faith. She didn’t have to come here. She could have gone anywhere, but she trusted the team and what it was all about.”

dagnew@signalscv.com

661-287-5530

 

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