Greta Schmittdiel: Volleyball Valkyrie
It's 6:45 a.m. on Monday morning in Corsair Pavilion and Greta Schmittdiel is running suicides. She doesn't have to. Her scrimmage team won the game from the practice session earlier that morning. Yet, she joins in as the losing half runs in the cold of the Pavilion, even beating some of them to the finish.
Schmittdiel is the leader of this young squad that has turned the fortunes of the women's volleyball program around.
Though Schmittdiel is labeled an outside hitter, her fundamentally sound game allows her to be utilized all over the court, which is most likely the result of being coached by 1998 Olympic bronze medalist, Liane Satto at Santa Monica High School for four years.
"It's consistency, her stats for hitting, for passing, for serving. She's ranked for hitting and for kills and that shows consistency," said SMC head women's volleyball coach Nicole Ryan.
Greta is currently ranked third in the state for kills, second in kills per set, fifth in service aces and is in the top 150 in digs.
In the cacophony of sound that is an indoor volleyball game, it will often be Greta that is the loudest. Calling out the set as a general would martial his men, the sound of her palm connecting with the volleyball to slam the ball down on the other side of the court.
"It's in her character. She's an intense competitor. She gets fired up for games and brings a competitive edge," Ryan said.
It's her competitive edge and obvious talent that have led 10 freshman, sole returning sophomore Jade Morning, a 2013 Western State Conference All-Conference Team Honorable Mention, to the Corsairs' first winning season since 2005.
The Santa Monica native has always been competitive, as one would expect being raised in a family of six children, including former Corsair men's volleyball star, Charlie Schmittdiel.
According to her, competitive nature was driven by her father, Felix. He was there at every practice, pushing her to reach her full potential on the track at Corsair Field.
"I've been out on [the Corsair Field] track so many times in tears because he pushed me so hard to push me past my limits," she said.
Volleyball, however, was not always her first calling.
Before finding volleyball, Schmittdiel danced ballet for 13 years and was devoted to soccer. The traces of her time on the the balancing beam can be found in the footwork of her digs, the echoes of an allongé found as she climbs up for a spike.
"I started volleyball freshman year of high school. All I knew was that I was tall and I needed to follow the ball," she said of her first experience on the court. "My first really strong memory of trying out for the team was every time I went up and blocked a ball, everyone just screamed and yelled. I was like 'oh this is how you're supposed to do this.'"
However, once she found the sport that allowed her to turn her height into an advantage and it has changed her position on life.
"Volleyball has made me less lazy. I don't want to spend the day in bed," she said. "I would so much rather go out and just train," she said.
Back at practice, she is angry. Her half of the team is down in the next scrimmage game and they have lost the past couple of points. Once her half wins their point, she storms to the back line, turns around then calls out the set. The anger is gone, she's back to being the floor general.
In the ebb and flow of a long season, Greta is the ebb. She admits that she is hard on her fellow players and she gets backlash.
"It's dramatic just because we're girls, girls talk, girls are catty. But, for the most part it hasn't been a huge issue and I hope it doesn't affect us on the court," she said. "Because at the end of the day, it's not personal, it's just me wanting to win."
Over the bye weekend, a meeting was called to discuss team morale.
"We have to understand language and stuff like that...girl stuff," she said of the meeting.
Schmittdiel found stability at the beach. She will be at the beach at 6:30 a.m. whenever possible, ready to play beach volleyball with her former partner Joslyn Hayes or a pick up game.
She moved away from it and sat out the 2013 season at California State University Los Angeles as a redshirt freshman and didn't like it, she wanted to come home.
"Right before I was going to go back to Cal State LA, I realized I was really unhappy there. So, I, spur of the moment...I needed the beach after high school. It's all I've known," she said.
As she worked through her redshirt season it was her father who helped her through.
"Last year was really hard and I worked through a lot of things. He was my one true supporter," she said.
At SMC her education major and kinesiology minor nods to possibilities of coaching in the future, which, oddly enough, she came to enjoy during her time at CSULA. Continuing down the path of playing volleyball, she has been offered five scholarships to major universities.
But first, there is the matter of the Corsairs' battle for the WSC title.
"It's not going to come to us. It's going to be really hard. I'm going to keep playing my game, go hard and stay vocal. I'm going to do pretty much exactly what I've been doing," she said. "As a whole, we all just need to be more aggressive to win the second half of our conference. We all want it, we all can say we want it. It's easier said than done."
Even while talking on a bench outside of the gym, her competitiveness and strive to succeed break through.
"I will sleep, eat, and breathe volleyball. It's never a topic I will not talk about," she says, each word fighting the last to sound more confident.