Volleyball student-athletes carry on mothers’ legacies
Pacific’s storied women’s volleyball team that won two national titles and advanced to the national semifinals seven times in the 80s and 90s is continuing its legacy through three current players who are the daughters of former Tiger standouts.
Junior Alexa Edwards, sophomore Jenna Heller and red-shirt freshman Sam Sublett are finding success in their own right.
Edwards was named to the 2021 All-West Coast Conference First Team, Heller was named to the 2021 West Coast Conference all-Freshman Team and in high school Sublett was a member of the three-time undefeated Valley League champions in Los Altos.
"In each case, I recruited the student, not to follow in their mother's footsteps, but to write the next chapter," said Head Coach Greg Gibbons. "Once they got here, they experienced the family feeling their mothers had described to them. Now they see what makes this program special and they share a new bond with their mothers."
Edwards’ mother, Cathy Lumb-Edwards, played for the Tigers from 1980-83, helping advance the team to its first NCAA semifinal in 1981. She served as a graduate assistant for Pacific's 1986 NCAA national championship team.
Heller’s mother, Melanie Beckenhauer-Heller, was a two-time All-American in volleyball, playing from 1988 to 1991. She was on the 1990 team that was the first to return to a championship game since the 1986 title, finishing as national runner-up.
Sublett’s mother, Leona Bielefeld-Sublett, was on the team from 1985 to 1988, helping the Tigers win national championships in 1985 and 1986.
The student-athletes benefited from their mother’s prowess.
"Volleyball has played a huge role in our relationship,” Edwards said. "She knows the game so well that I really appreciate the advice and constructive criticism she gives me. I know it is coming from a good place as my mom and a former player herself."
While their mothers have played an integral role in their volleyball careers, the student-athletes’ decision to attend Pacific went beyond the personal connection. They credit the coaching staff, strong traditions and family-oriented environment.
“I love how close we all are,” Sublett said. “It didn't take much for us to become like family. We’re even close to each other’s moms and the alumni base here is really strong and solid. I think that's one of the best parts of the team.”
Alexa Edwards’ mother had the same feeling when she visited Pacific on a recruiting trip.
“It was incredibly warm and inviting,” she recalled. “My parents saw that back in the 80s for me when I was a student, and I definitely see that for Alexa. The coaching staff, the team and you are part of a family.
“I still am connected with alums, not only from my year, but different years. We share a bond, and you don’t see that in a lot of programs across the country,” Lumb-Edwards said.
She rarely misses a game. The other mothers also regularly attend competitions.
"I have overwhelming pride walking into Spanos, hearing the pep band and seeing familiar faces that now recognize me and acknowledge Jenna and all she brings to the program," Beckenhauer-Heller said. "Being able to sing the fight song together knowing how much it meant to me and now to her, it is incredible for us to be connected by such amazing traditions and relationships."
The current players are aiming high as they prepare for the 2022 season.
“We are all dedicated and are pushing each other every day,” Heller said. “We have a good chance of being better than we have been the last couple of years and making our own legacy.”
The volleyball season begins Friday, Aug. 26 at Northwestern. The first home game is Tuesday, Sept. 27 against Santa Clara. View the full schedule.