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High school powerhouse to join Wildcat volleyball team

Julie Ortega

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High school senior Natalia Betancourt proudly wears her Chico State sweatshirt in her home in Southern California. Betancourt will be joining the Wildcat volleyball team in the fall. Photo courtesy of Natalia Betancourt.

Volleyball high school standout Natalia Betancourt officially signed her National Letter of Intent to play for Chico State in the fall of 2015.

Betancourt ended her high school career with 1,624 digs. In her final season with Santiago High School in Corona she earned 398 digs and was awarded a Second Team All-Area Honors.

As a senior, she averaged 4.7 digs per set, helping her team move on to the 2014 California Interscholastic Federation Division IA Southern Section championship.

Betancourt has only a few months left before she graduates high school, and she’s ready for the next big step in her career, she said.

“I’m so excited to go to Chico State,” she said. “It’s all I’ve been thinking about.”

While looking into what colleges she wanted to attend, she did not want leave the state. Her intention was to stay close but be a distance away from home, she said.

According to Betancourt, Chico’s atmosphere was one of the reasons why she chose to attend Chico State. She said that she wants to experience a different environment and to be able to meet new people.

She plans to be a pre-nursing major and wants to work for the Children’s Hospital of Orange County, she said.

Betancourt may be the only one from her group of peers attending Chico State, but making new friends will be the least of her worries, she said.

Emily Duran, the women’s volleyball team’s senior libero has known Betancourt for about five years. Duran describes Betancourt as a good player with a lot of energy who works extremely hard.

“She has a lot of experience playing in big-time situations because her high school team, they won CIF last year,” Duran said. “They went to state.”

Betancourt attended volleyball camp with the ‘Cats last summer where she got the chance to get acquainted with members of the team. While being in camp, she was placed into games where she had to immediately demonstrate her skills.

“They expected us to go on like that — no mercy on us” Betancourt said.

The games were more fast paced in camp, but Betancourt said that she benefited by being able to see what it was like to play with the team.

Tommy Gott, one of the assistant coaches for Chico State’s volleyball team, said what stood out the most to them about Betancourt was her passing and her defensive skills.

“She waits to see what’s happening and then she goes and gets the ball,” Gott said.

Betancourt will benefit the team because of how encouraging she is with her fellow teammates, Duran said.

“Her constant desire to pump her team up and get them going will bring a lot of positive energy to the court,” she said.

According to Betancourt, she looks up to Duran as a role model.

“Someone that Natalia has looked up to is Emily,” Gott said, “and we expect Natalia to come in and be a great player in the future for us just like Em has been over the past four years.”

Betancourt said that over the summer she will continue to prepare for the fall season both mentally and physically.

“We’re excited to see how she competes for the libero position and then also how she competes with the rest of the (defensive specialists) for coming off the bench potentially and being a (defensive specialist),” Gott said.

Julie Ortega can be reached at [email protected] or @julieOrtega_ on Twitter.

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High school powerhouse to join Wildcat volleyball team