It was all smiles for Sarah Rodriguez and her family on Friday afternoon as the seventeen year old senior from St. Francis High School signed her letter of intent, with her parents permission of course, to attend and play volleyball at Notre Dame De Namur University in Belmont this fall.
The lobby of the gymnasium was packed with about 40 of Rodriguez’s classmates as well as her parents Robert and Mabel, family, friends, and school faculty including Director of Development Mark Paxton and President/Principle Keith Mathews.
Rodriguez sat behind a table that had a volleyball, a folded up sweatshirt and pennant with the letters NDNU along with a small sign that displayed a logo of the mascot to her new school, the Argonauts, on top of it.
With the addition of the crowd together with cameras and media coverage, Friday’s event had the vibe of something one would see on ESPN.
However, nothing seemed to faze her when she, as well as her mom, went on to sign the letter of intent like a champion to make it truly official on paper.
Rodriguez was ecstatic and thrilled about the opportunity to make one of the biggest decisions in her life in front of the people that she cares about, especially her parents.
“I feel on top of the world,” said Rodriguez. “It’s such a dream come true for me. I’ve wanted this for so long, it’s just great.”
And as for what she thinks about her parents.
“They’re my rocks,” said Rodriguez. “There’s been so many ups’ and downs’ from being a bench warmer to starting six, they’ve always been there for me and not let me give up on myself when I wasn’t sure.”
But before the letter was signed, sealed and delivered, Principle Mathews praised Rodriguez for her recognition on and off the court and wished her well on her new journey. Here is a part of what he had to say in his small introduction speech.
“Ultimately I’m excited because she’s a great volleyball player, I like coming to watch her play,” said Mathews. “It’s more fun to win than lose as long as you’re taking care of things like how you represent your school and Sarah’s enabled us to do that a lot, and that’s been fun.”
“But as good a volleyball player as she is, and she’s a doggone good volleyball player, she’s a better person. She’s the kind of person who cares for her friends, her ever present smile [looks towards Sarah as she is smiling], see, is genuine and has served her teammates and herself well.”
NDNU volleyball Head Coach Nicole Annaloro was unable to attend Friday’s event but was kind enough to send a letter which Paxton gladly read out loud.
“The entire staff at Notre Dame is extremely excited to have Sarah as part of our program at NDNU and we look forward to August when we can begin training together as a team. We believe Sarah will be a great fit for the program. Signed, Nicole Annaloro.” said Paxton.
After Paxton finished the letter, Mathews added a humorous remark towards Rodriguez to lighten her up and the attentive crowd a chuckle.
“She’s reminding you that you’ve become their property in August.” said Mathews.
Rodriguez’s dad Robert stood behind her as she signed her way into NSNU, but luckily the campus isn’t too far for him to make the trips up north, 67 miles to be exact, because one of the major factors for picking a school was the distance between them.
“We’re a very close family,” said Robert. “And that was one of our hopes that she would stay close to us so we would be able to stay in contact with her. So we’re really happy about that.”
This was also one of the primary reasons Rodriguez chose NDNU over the vast amount of schools with a volleyball program. And on top of not moving away too far, she also picked her new school for other obvious but very relevant reasons.
“Notre Dame offered me a good education and they have such a great volleyball program. I just felt like home already.” said Rodriguez.
In three of the four years she played on the Sharks volleyball squad, Rodriguez was part of the All SCCAL team. Once on the Second Team in her junior year and twice as an Honorable Mention in her sophomore and senior years.
Rodriguez will be a big asset to the Argonauts volleyball team who started the 2011 season with a dismal 12 game losing streak and finished the season with an unimpressive record of 5-24 in the Division II Pacific West Conference.
Although she’s ready to move on to NDNU and anticipates competing within the high competitive levels of collegiate athletes, there’s no doubt Rodriguez will still have St. Francis in the back of her mind.
“I’m going to miss it so much,” said Rodriguez. “It’s just a big family here and everyone is so close. The environment here is so friendly and I’m going to miss everyone.”