Women’s volleyball losing three seniors

    After a successful 2003 campaign that included a No. 1 national ranking and a berth into the NCAA Division II Far West Regionals, the UCSD women’s volleyball team is bidding farewell to senior opposite and outside hitter Lauren Mills, opposite Ashley Peterson and defensive specialist Denelle Smalley.

    Co-captain Smalley has provided the Tritons with a solid defense during her career at UCSD. She played 317 games and contributed 596 total digs. She earned the Outstanding Freshman honors in 2000, racking up 216 digs in 104 games played, more than any other Triton during the season.

    “My proudest accomplishments would be making it to the Elite Eight tournament in Michigan my sophomore year, and also being ranked first in the nation for more than three months of my senior season,” Smalley said.

    The 5-foot-8 defensive specialist graduates with a sociology degree and will be working full-time as a veterinary assistant at Cardiff Animal Hospital in Cardiff. She currently interns as a dog trainer and plans to continue her internship after she graduates.

    Smalley appreciates the time she spent as a UCSD volleyball player and all the experiences of being part of a team.

    “I will miss my teammates the most,” Smalley said. “Being with them almost every day of the year will definitely leave a huge void in my life. I will also miss the competition. College athletics provide the highest level of competitive intensity, and I don’t think I will ever have the chance to do something as special in this regard again.”

    Peterson moved from setter to opposite in her second season as a Triton in 2001, with 202 kills, 176 digs and 50 blocks. The 6-foot senior also received the Coaches Award in 2000. Although Peterson suffered an injury in 2002, she has been an integral part of the team during her career at UCSD. She graduates from UCSD having played a total of 217 games and tallying 372 kills, 20 aces, 124 digs and 114 blocks.

    Peterson graduates with a psychology degree and hopes to find a job in San Diego.

    “My teammates and I have created a strong relationship over the past four years,” Peterson said. “The constant everyday interaction is what I am going to miss the most.”

    The third graduating senior is Lauren Mills. The 5-foot-8 Mills had her breakthrough season in 2002, playing 98 games with 102 kills, 276 digs and 21 blocks, enough to earn her the team’s Coaches Award. In her four years at UCSD, Mills played 320 games and racked up 264 kills, 69 aces, 852 digs and 54 blocks.

    “I can’t single out one memory, but the common theme is a well-fought team victory, including defeating Cal State San Bernardino at their place for the [2001] Regional Finals, defeating BYU-Hawaii in front of a huge BYU crowd and news cameras [in 2003] and defeating Cal State San Bernardino at home on Halloween in front of our home crowd all dressed in costumes,” Mills said.

    Mills graduates with a degree in psychology and plans to stay in San Diego to study graphic design in art school. She hopes to eventually end up in advertising.

    “[I’ll miss] road trips, [coach Duncan McFarland’s] U-turns (although they are reducing significantly), pregame rocking the boat and R.E.S.P.E.C.T.-ing it up, celebratory group hugs, solid aggressive indoor competition, Wattie’s concussions, Denelle and Duns’ Devil and Satan, the Oompa Loompa group, Wounded Soldier Disabilities game in the hallways and group crossword puzzles,” Mills said.

    Although Smalley, Peterson and Mills are graduating, all three are confident about the team’s prospects for next season.

    “Since there are only three of us graduating, and we have one of the strongest junior classes in the nation, next season is looking very promising,” Smalley said. “I predict a possible national championship out of next year’s team.”

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