Oct. 5, 2000
Washington setter Gretchen Maurer can remember being 10 years old, out on the beach with her parents and a few of their friends, enjoying a day of sun, sand, and -- of course -- volleyball. Her mother, a pioneer of USC volleyball in the late 1970s, and her father, a former trainer for the women of Troy, would always hit the ball a tad bit softer in her direction. Always a competitor, little Gretchen longed for the day when she could handle the "hard stuff." Her parents had no idea what was in store for them.
Maurer's story is typical of an accomplished athlete. When playing volleyball, she has that certain spark in her eye, the fire of a soul longing to master her sport. Like almost everyone at her level of play, she put in the long hours at camps and the late nights in the gym. She always had a persistent quality that could have been learned easily from either one of her parents. Take her father for instance.
"My mom hurt her hand (playing volleyball) and was getting treated by my dad," Maurer recalls with a laugh. "My dad asked her out so many times, and my mom finally said yes when she couldn't think of any more excuses."
His hard work paid off, and they've been together ever since.
Even more impressive is her mother's background in perseverance. While at the University of Southern California, she met several times with current Washington Athletic Director Barbara Hedges in efforts toward the establishment of Title IX.
Her work has also paid off, and helped pave the way for thousands of women in sports, including her daughter.
With the roadblocks of yesteryear cleared from sight, Maurer's only trouble playing sports is narrowing the list down to one. At San Clemente (Calif.) High School, she earned letters in volleyball, swimming, water polo and surfing. But don't think she stopped there. She also earned several awards as a lifeguard, a position for which she was one of five chosen from over 60 candidates in a rigorous tryout.
Of those sports, surfing was Maurer's first passion.
"The town I grew up in is home to tons of professional surfers," she explains. "Everyone grows up wanting to be a pro surfer."
Maurer's younger brother Mike was not immune to the town surfing bug. He already surfs competitively and has been sponsored by a sunglass company in the past, but now rides for a well-known surfing supply company. He, like the other die-hard surfers he grew up with, can't wait to be full-fledged professional surfer.
Maurer can hold her own amongst surfers as well. She lettered in surfing all four years of high school and took second in state twice, no small feat in California.
For now, Maurer's professional surfing plans are on hold, mostly because of a personal choice to focus on volleyball, but also because women's professional surfing is just now taking off. Once a professional circuit is set up in Maurer's own specialty, the longboard, she hopes to join the tour and travel the world.
For now, all energy goes to volleyball.
"I was kind of ready to get away from the whole surfing scene," says Maurer. "It seems like a lot of people get stuck down there. I knew that for now there was something better out there for me."
Luckily for Washington volleyball coach Bill Neville, Maurer found that something in Seattle, with the Husky volleyball program.
"I chose Washington over a lot of good schools like USC, Colorado and Nebraska," Maurer says. "My parents and I decided that Washington was best for me in the end."
That decision was certainly best for Washington. In just a short time, Maurer has managed to make an immediate impact on the team. Although missing out on the first part of her freshman season while on a stint with the junior national team, she quickly emerged as one of the Huskies' most versatile and athletically talented athletes.
Her well-rounded persona off the court is certainly reflected in her play. In just 37 appearances as a freshman, Maurer racked up 23 kills, a good total for a setter. At 5-11, Maurer has the ability to fill in at the opposite position and do it well, which undoubtably has already given her an advantage over other setters, and will continue to do so down the road.
The future looks just as bright as the past for Gretchen Maurer. At the brink of a more-than-promising career as a Husky, she still has pleasant dreams of volleyball and surfing lined up ahead of her, and still enjoys a good game of beach volleyball with her parents.
Of course, now the soft hits aren't directed toward Gretchen.