p1440: Lacey Fuller, Jessica McGuire

p1440 Developmental Program: Lacey Fuller, Jess McGuire

In a technical sense, Lacey Fuller and Jessica McGuire began learning volleyball the same way. When Fuller was 8, her mom signed her up for something called morning volleyball, which began before school started. McGuire, too, learned to play the game at a camp amongst peers around 7 years old, only here it may be of somewhat importance to note that McGuire was not a 7-year-old, but a 20-something recent graduate of UCLA.

“Upon graduating, I was able to meet Sinjin Smith,” McGuire said. “And my best friend played volleyball and lived by the beach and I started learning the game and I got to work for Sinjin’s camps and learn with the little 7-year-olds. So through teaching I was able to learn volleyball the best.”

While McGuire’s beach volleyball introduction came via one of the game’s most storied players, Fuller’s career was developed by one of its most storied programs. After putting in her time at the morning volleyball camps and as a four-year varsity player at Torrey Pines High School, where she helped the Falcons to a 2007 CIF Title and a 2010 League Championship, Fuller was recruited to play for Penn State, a program that had won four consecutive National Championships by the time Fuller enrolled in 2011.

With Fuller at libero, the Nittany Lions rolled off two more NCAA Titles, in 2013 and 2014, a career that would leave most ecstatic or, at the very least, reasonably satisfied. Fuller, though, graduated feeling as if she left something on the table.

“I never thought ‘What do I need to do to beat out that top level?’” Fuller said. “I feel like had I had that mindset with indoor, I could be a bit farther along there. That’s what I’m trying to do with beach volleyball. I feel like we’re in a very fundamental stage in our career. I’m just trying to apply myself to be the best player I can be. Unfortunately, it took indoor being over for me to realize that ‘Oh, I worked hard, but I could have done more,’ and I want to do that here, so that’s what I’m doing. That’s why I’m here.”

While Fuller is pushed by her desire to feel as if she could have done more, McGuire’s path shifted because her body demanded that she do no more in the sport she had mastered. After playing 10 years of soccer and receiving little to no recruiting interest during high school, McGuire enrolled at UCLA with no specific aspirations of becoming an athlete.

Of course, that preceded her becoming a four-year rower, a scholarship athlete, a team captain. But she underwent surgery on her lung, which made making the next step in rowing – the Olympic step – a near impossibility.

“I thought ok, ‘I’m an athlete, that’s part of me, I’d love to continue this,’” she recalled. “We’re never letting a practice go. Whether it’s a boring day or a really intense day, I feel like I get to the end of the day exhausted, if it’s physically, emotionally, mentally, whatever, because we’re getting better and we’re taking whatever we learned and we’re going to hone in on it, talk about it, debrief, so we don’t waste a day.”

Other Developmental Program teams:

Jay Panther, Cody Caldwell: The near-Olympic skier and the National Champ

Chloe Crappell, Carissa Whalen: Discovering community through beach volleyball

Travis Mewhirter, Myles Muagututia: The smoothest athlete on the beach

Madison Willis, McKenna Thibodeau: Let your personality shine

Victoria Dennis, Nora Darrhar: A partnership grounded in gratitude

John Schwengel, Aidan Brown: The youngsters looking to make the leap

Tomas Salava, Martin Mach: Giving this beach thing a shot