Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Madera Coyote girls volleyball libero Mariyah Alvarez makes a play on the ball during a match last season. She signed to play next season at La Sierra University.
The defensive leader of the back-to-back County/Metro Athletic Conference Madera Coyotes girls volleyball champions is extending her career by committing to play next year at La Sierra University in Riverside.
Madera’s libero Mariyah Alvarez worked through the COVID-19 pandemic to reach her goal of playing volleyball in college.
“It’s a dream to continue my career,” she said. “There was a point if that was possible because of COVID and everything. I continued to talk to the coaches. Since COVID happened, we, people who weren’t committed, had to do way more. We couldn’t go see the campus and couldn’t do a signing. We had to do different routes. I didn’t do a signing. They sent me an online signing so that’s what I did.”
Alvarez had some choices with some schools out of state, but she really didn’t want to leave California so she had to expand her choices.
“I was looking at mostly junior colleges,” she said. “I wanted to push myself to somewhere I would have more competition. I was looking at Div. II and NAIA schools.”
Although Alvarez didn’t have the traditional signing ceremony most high school seniors get, she still relished the moment she made her commitment and completed her online signing.
“I feel satisfied,” she said. “It was a step back, but it wasn’t a step back that was going to hold me back. I understand that it’s exclusive to get signed. Compared to baseball, for volleyball there are about 12 players on a team. It’s challenging to get picked up or even looked at from a college team. I’m very happy that I will have an opportunity to play in college.”
Alvarez plans to major in kinesiology to become a physical therapist.
“I still have bigger goals, but I’m glad to hit one milestone,” she said. “I just have to keep hitting more.”
Alvarez said she chose La Sierra because they were one of the first schools that contacted her and it was also the only school she got to visit because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I liked it there and what they stood for,” she said. “Their coaches had to be someone that pushed me and had the same intentions. At Madera, I had coach (Meghan) Haas and she was really pushing, but not a strict coach. She was always there to make you do things you wouldn’t think you needed to do. The coaches at La Sierra have that same energy as Coach Haas. I liked that about them. They were empowering, but at the same time, they sympathize with you and try to make you the best player you can be. That’s what I liked about them. And, it was in California so my family and friends can come watch.”
Alvarez said she wasn’t sure she was collegiate material after her first two years in the volleyball program. Then, she blossomed throughout her junior season and became a starter by the time the year was over.
“When I first started, the first two years, I didn’t think I was that talented,” Alvarez said. “My junior year was my skyrocketing year. That team was big with 16 girls. I was a junior and didn’t think I was going to play. I just focused on myself and getting better. By the end of the year, I was the starting libero. Just that course of the season, I did so much. I thought if I could do that much, I think I could play in college. I started focusing more on continuing it in college.”
Alvarez says she looks back at her four years and sees a lot of growth, both physically and mentally.
“My mentality and physical strength grew because of volleyball and because of the mentors I had. I don’t think I would be where I am without those people,” she said. “I would not have done this myself without my coaches and my brother.”
Alvarez was an All-County/Metro Athletic Conference second team selection and an All-Madera Tribune team selection after last season.
With Alvarez’s signing, Madera has 14 student-athletes continuing their athletic career at four-year schools next year — all female.
“I think that’s amazing,” she said. “That makes a statement. It’s not just not the males that can go to college. Girls can have just as much power. I love the idea of women empowerment.”
Alvarez’s older brother, Tristen, finished a four-year playing career at Fresno Pacific as a four-year starter for the Sunbirds. Although he may not have been able to help on the recruiting end, he was able to get her ready to play collegiate volleyball.
“He helped me a lot with my mentality, which helped me work out a lot,” Mariyah said. “He pushed me to work out. He still works out with me now. That helped me get to where I’m at. He didn’t help, not necessarily, with the recruiting process, but I feel like helped me as a person and athlete get me where I am now.”
One group that is happy Alvarez chose to stay in the state are her parents, who are fixtures at each of her games.
“They like me being down south,” Alvarez said. “They didn’t want me to go to Riverside because it was so far for them. For me, it’s a good start.”
In the end, even with the pandemic, Alvarez felt a relief when she finally made the commitment.
“It’s like a relief,” she said. “Now I know what to look forward to and to focus on. Now that I know I’m going to this school, now I have a start point and can build off that. I want to keep moving up. This is my start point. I’m really satisfied and relieved this is done. COVID didn’t hold me back, at all.”