By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– It’s been a ride for Blanchet’s Julissa Rocha-Ibarra in getting to George Fox University for Volleyball.
Five years ago, she picked up the sport, something she’s grateful that the school had helped introduce her to. As a sophomore she was part of the Cavaliers fifth-place team and has been a steady part of the Blanchet Catholic squad the past two years with the Cavs getting back to the PacWest Conference league playoffs this past season.
As a Senior this past season her and her squad really came together, becoming more like sisters and battling through the circumstances handed to them through the Pandemic-shortened season.
“I really love every single one of my teammates. We really became sisters this year. It really didn’t matter who we were playing or what the circumstances were, I really felt blessed to be in a team where I knew that we had each other’s backs and wholeheartedly supported each other,” said Rocha-Ibarra. This team is definitely a highlight of my high school. I will miss them so much but I can’t wait to see what they will accomplish.”
Self-described as perseverant and goal-driven, something she inherited from her parents. Her parents showing her what both looked like through their work and life stories and volleyball really helped her piece it all together.
“I think volleyball really was the place where I could fortify and build on those virtues. Volleyball also helps me strengthen my mental health,” she said. “I think it has positively impacted me knowing that I have a team that has my back and that I can play for them and support them as well.
“A lot of these things that I’ve learned through volleyball like being a better teammate, being resilient, focusing on things I can control, and adjusting to the randomness of the game, I can translate to my life off the court. I think it gave me a head start to what my adulthood will look like and volleyball supplied me with tools to be resilient in it.”
Rocha-Ibarra had introduced the sport to her younger sister, who is currently in the seventh grade, and has been a driving force for her one-day hopes to join Julissa as a collegiate athlete. The elder Rocha-Ibarra is proud to be an inspiration for her sister, pointing towards her competitiveness that has fed her success.
“It’s an honor to be an inspiration to my little sister. She is probably the most competitive person I know. She is in love with the sport and I’m just grateful that I could introduce her to the game and that she could get reps with me at home,” said the older Rocha-Ibarra. “Although I did introduce her to it and have given her a lot of reps, her success is truly her success. She is where she is right now because of her drive and I think it’s awesome that she has that drive at such a young age.”
Rocha-Ibarra received first-team All-League honors this past season in Blanchet’s 5-6 season, reaching the second-place battle with Yamhill-Carlton before falling to the Tigers in straight-sets on April 1.
While Rocha-Ibarra is at GFU, the future Bruin will be studying Nursing. Pointing towards it being a place for her to grow academically while the Volleyball team has that strong bond feeling that drew the first-generation student-athlete.
“I have never seen a team that’s more bonded than them and I’m so excited that I get to be a part of that. The nursing department feels like a place where I can grow and I’m really excited to spend my early adulthood at GFU,” Rocha-Ibarra.
“It’s really awesome! It was definitely a new adventure for my family and I but I absolutely love where it’s led me. My little sister that’s in seventh grade is also looking to go that route and I think it’s cool that she now has some insight on the recruitment process and someone to hold her hand along the way. I’m really excited for these next four years. I’m really thankful for Blanchet for introducing me to volleyball and former head coach Sherrie Bashaw for creating so many opportunities for me to get in the gym. I’m also thankful for Dom Lee. He’s a trainer for both Blanchet and George Fox. I met him my Junior year and he gave me insight on what it was like to be a student-athlete at GFU.”
Photos By Jeremy McDonald