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"There are certain moments that I seek in life, and I like to refer to them as Big Bang moments. A couple theories on the creation of the universe exist, and I’m sure most of us are familiar with the Big Bang Theory. In short, the Big Bang hypothesis states that all of the current and past matter in the Universe came into existence at the same time, roughly 13.8 billion years ago. At this time, all matter was compacted into a very small ball with infinite density and intense heat called a Singularity. Suddenly, the Singularity began expanding, and the universe as we know it began. A Big Bang moment is when all your years of hard work, energy invested, commitment, and sacrifice all converge into a singularity…at one time in space. And BOOM. It all comes to worth. Suddenly it all makes sense.

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"Volleyball, although just a piece of who I am, has been a strong core thread woven throughout my life story.  It represents a platform for personal growth and development, a medium for self-expression, a precursor for great passion and purpose, a crutch of stability in tough times, and a vehicle through life - taking me to the highest heights, as well as some of the lowest lows. It has given me the opportunities to travel all over the world, learn from many teachers, compete alongside some incredible women, and dream big. I couldn’t be more grateful for the invaluable life experiences I’ve gained, and for the way the sport has shaped the person I’ve become.

I grew up playing a lot of different sports - gymnastics, track & field, and basketball to name a few - but it is in volleyball that I found true passion starting at the age of 10 in an after-school volleyball league. I continued playing a variety of sports all the way through high school, but I knew in my heart that volleyball was special. The first moment I realized that I could very well be great in this sport was when I was pulled up to the top Santa Barbara Volleyball Club’s 18s team at the age of 16. I was teased by the older girls, didn’t understand half the things they talked about, and cried more times than I’d like to admit. But I played with the constant insatiable desire to improve and saw how I stood out with my raw athleticism and natural abilities. The exposure spurred a flurry of interest from college recruiters.  

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Stanford University was one school I’d heard discussed in such high reverence, it almost seemed like a distant fairytale.  I decided it was my dream school, and I remember the look on my parents’ faces when my twin sister and I told them we wanted to go there.  Of course, they weren’t going to tell us it wasn’t possible, but I could sense the skepticism in their tone and the careful way they tip-toed through the following conversation.  Even if we did get in, how would they be able to afford it?

It’s a beautiful thing, to watch your dreams unfold into reality.  Samantha and I both earned full ride volleyball scholarships to Stanford University, starting our freshman year in 2010. Life was good. We were living the dream. And then, Sam unexpectedly died our sophomore year. When she passed, all my constructs about the world and the way things are came crumbling down. I questioned everything I knew to be true. Yet, I rebuilt and kept going. A loss like that never leaves you, and I know that it has shaped the person I am now in a lot of ways. She is very much a part of me and my story, in everything that I continue to do.

My college years were challenging, and I faced unimaginable adversity.  But I came through - thanks to the love & support from family, friends, teammates, Stanford, and even strangers across the nation.  I learned an incredible amount in my four years there with John Dunning and Denise Corlett as my coaches.

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After graduating in 2014 with a degree in Human Biology, I immediately began my professional volleyball career. I played for 4 years, in France, Turkey, Japan, and China.  9 months of each year were spent abroad competing for those foreign professional teams, and the summers were spent here training and competing with the US Women’s National Team in Anaheim.  An injury and a host of other factors led me to take the leap from indoor to beach at the start of 2019, marking my first seasons on the AVP and FIVB tours.  It was a difficult transition, but one of the most fun periods of my life. I was so fortunate to have such opportunities come my way, learn from welcoming coaches, and play alongside women I highly respect.

And then, covid. It was at this time my journey into firefighting began. After several years of dedicating myself to the pursuit of a fire career, I achieved my goal, and started working alongside some of the best firefighters in the world. A firefighting career provides an extremely unique opportunity to make positive impact and change lives in a magnified realm. Not only do you save lives and put out fires; you are there for people on their worst day, in their most challenging moments, and you have the chance to connect with them and make their day a little better if possible. It gives you the opportunity to be that difference, to be that small spark of change, of love, of compassion. I want to be that person.

I have developed a different perspective on life than most peers my age in that I don’t take time lightly. I don’t waste it. I feel this urgency to make the absolute most of every second of every day, and I take it quite seriously. This is largely what drew me to firefighting. And it is also largely what drew me back to volleyball. I have unfinished business here, and I can’t play forever. Time is ticking. My Big Bang awaits.

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Now, I am back in the professional athlete grind. I pride myself in outworking my competitors. I will be ready when my time comes. I will rise to the occasion. And I will succeed. It’s what I do now that dictates my ability and response in those moments. Every thought, action, and choice we make compounds in an intricate cascade of time, matter, and space to shape us and bring us there to collide head on with the present situation. To BOOM.

To everyone else out there busting their a**es and pursuing their dreams… Let us constantly strive for improvement, embrace challenges, and help others selflessly without hesitation. Let us never quit, never stop learning, and give our all on the daily. Let us have enough courage to overcome fear, enough fear to be humble, enough pride to take some hits, but not so much that we lose compassion and empathy. And lastly, let us always remember who we are and why we began.



© 2022 Carly Wopat & Beach Agency Group

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