The Arkansas Tech Golden Suns volleyball team is off to another fantastic start. Nearing the midway point of the season, the Golden Suns are 13-5 and 7-0 in Great American Conference play.
An integral part of their success is rookie sensation Sarita Stegall, a freshman setter from Fort Smith.
When Stegall joined the team, she had no idea what kind of playing time she would get.
“I didn’t expect to start, but I was able to fill the spot; that was pretty cool,” Stegall said.
Stegall has filled in just fine for the Golden Suns, as she is currently ranked fourth in the GAC in assists and has won GAC Setter of the Week in back-to-back weeks, the only setter in the GAC to do so this season.
“I didn’t even know that was a thing,” she said. “A couple of the girls came in and congratulated me. I was like ‘Oh, this is pretty cool.’ It gave me confidence and showed me how much I can do for my team.”
For the uninitiated, the setter position is similar to that of the quarterback. They are the play callers and control the flow of a match.
Stegall entered a team that has made it to the NCAA Championship Tournament the last two years in a row and took over a key position.
“There was definitely a pressure at first,” she said. “It was a big spot to fill. Everyone encouraged me and had confidence in me. That helped a lot.”
Stegall has achieved this while attending her first semester of college. Balancing studies and a first place team is something she has been able to manage well.
“The preseason was a bit overwhelming with all the practice, but once the season and school actually started, it got easier,” she said. “The older girls gave me advice on how to handle everything.”
Success isn’t new to Stegall. She achieved all-state honors twice in high school and helped lead her team to a state championship in 2013.
She doesn’t take all the credit, though.
“I wouldn’t be able to accomplish any of this without God, who blessed me with awesome brothers and parents,” she said.
Stegall’s brothers have been crucial to her both on and off the court.
“Growing up with two brothers, they never took it easy on me.”
She recounted her brother Daniel playing professional baseball.
“Seeing him do that made me realize ‘Okay, this is within reach, you just have to work for it.’”
Her other brother, Zach, dreamed of moving to California. After attending Arkansas Tech, he managed to get a job in California.
“He helped me focus on what I want and how to get it,” she said.
Stegall’s parents have also been a big part to her success.
“Sometimes I think my dad forgets I’m a girl,” she said. “He always pushes me; I really appreciate it. My mom is really competitive. She helps me make good decisions. They helped me realize that anything is possible. If you set your mind to it, you can accomplish it.”
Stegall hopes she can continue her success with the Golden Suns and beyond.
“I think we can make it to the NCAA Championship Tournament again. I want to make it through the first round. We’ve never done that before. I know we can do it.”
After Tech, Stegall wants to continue her volleyball career and try out for a professional team.
“I’d have to try out in a different country for a pro team,” she said. “That would be cool. If I keep playing well, hopefully I can do that.”
Stegall closed the post-practice interview saying, “I’m excited all of this is happening. It’s never boring, that’s for sure.”