When Emily Carpenter finished her final volleyball match at Centennial High School four years ago, it appeared that it would be the last time she would every step on a gym floor for a competitive match.
After earning her diploma in the spring of 2007, Carpenter enrolled at Pace University in New York, where she continued her education without participating in collegiate volleyball.
One season away from the Northwest was all Carpenter needed before making the decision to move back to her home state of Oregon and join the Linfield volleyball program.
“After high school I was burnt out (with volleyball) and I thought I was done with sports,” recalls Carpenter, who will earn a degree in elementary education and her teaching license in the spring. “My first fall not playing volleyball was weird. Not being around it really made me miss it and I decided to come back here.”
Upon her arrival on the McMinnville campus, Carpenter worked her way into the rotation as a reserve. As a sophomore in 2009, Carpenter played in 17 of the club’s 20 matches.
“Being exposed to college volleyball is a big step from high school” notes Carpenter of her first season at Linfield. “My sophomore year when I transferred here I didn’t play much but it was good to learn from everyone else around me and watch the things they did. Last year I came into more playing time and getting that experience was important because I still had another year.”
Carpenter proved to be a quick learner, making an impact in multiple phases of the game. As a junior in 2010, Carpenter played in all 23 matches, ranking second on the team in assists (225), third on the team in service aces (23) and fifth on the club in digs (142).
With the ability to help the team in multiple areas of the game, Carpenter has developed into one of Linfield head coach Shane Kimura’s most consistent players over the past three seasons.
“One of the intangibles that Emily brings to the team is her court sense,” notes Kimura. ”She can find holes in the other team’s defense and can score points in that way. Emily is also one of our servers that can hit a specific zone when serving to disrupt the other team.”
Carpenter, who has tallied 19 service aces thus far in 2010, enjoys the opportunity to help her club in multiple ways.
“Serving an ace is a great feeling, especially during crunch time,” says Carpenter, who hopes to find a teaching position following the spring semester. “At the same time I love the setting part of the game. I like getting people good sets and the celebration after is great. You get to come together as a team and celebrate what everyone did well.”
Carpenter’s words speak to her unselfishness, something easily seen by teammates.
“Emily is the kind of teammate who you always want around,” says Rosa Gimson, a junior middle blocker. “She is a leader by example in practice, meaning that she is thoughtful, works hard, and inspires those around her to do the same. Her quiet confidence is key to our team's success. She has this contagious passion that just ignites those around her and that is one of the biggest reasons that I love playing with her.”
With a work ethic that is contagious, Carpenter has excelled as a setter. The setter position is one filled with rapid fire decision-making.
In order to facilitate the offense and distribute the ball to the correct location, Carpenter has to take into consideration many factors before making a set.
“I have to be aware of who is on the other side and know how big the blockers are,” explains Carpenter, who began student teaching this semester. “In crunch time you just have to go to someone who is going to get it over. It’s usually the outside hitter because that’s the easiest set. You just push it out there. Ultimately anything quick and playing the middle is important.”
With all the decisions that go into being a setter, Carpenter as seemingly made it effortless. No one knows this better than Gimson. With Kimura’s emphasis on working the middle of the court, Gimson is one of Carpenter’s primary targets.
“Emily is an incredibly consistent setter,” notes Gimson. “I love playing with her because I can always count on her to get a great touch, and if she thinks that she can do better then I always trust that she's determined to get the next one. She works really hard in both practice and games to be consistent and it really shows in our matches.”
In addition to consistency, Carpenter provides a level of creativity. Linfield fans have grown accustomed to seeing Carpenter surprise opponents with her patented drop shot.
After receiving a pass in front of the net, Carpenter will unexpectedly and quickly dump a two-handed shot into an open zone in the defense.
“I’m sure it drives the other team crazy because it’s totally a cheap shot, but it scores points,” Carpenter laughingly says. “Sometimes I do it on really good passes because they aren’t going to expect me to dump on a good pass. They would expect me to set for somebody. I also try it if we just need a side out.”
Regardless of the situation, Carpenter’s craftiness has been marveled at for three seasons.
As Carpenter wraps up her final season with the Linfield volleyball program and continues her pursuit of a career in education, the senior understands exactly what she has gained during her three seasons as a Wildcat.
“A lot of friends and great people,” says Carpenter without hesitation. “I’ve gained independence and the ability to balance my time. With school, volleyball and student teaching you are going a million miles per hour. From volleyball I’ve learned that if you keep working hard good things with happen.”
As for the Linfield volleyball program and Wildcat fans, all are very thankful there was a return trip from the big city.
-- Eric Evenson '11
Finds a perfect balance between athletics and academics
Director of Sports Information
McMinnville, OR 97128