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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Unyielding ambition

The+University+of+Arizonas+Womens+Volleyball+Team+plays+Eastern+Washington+at+the+McKale+Center+in+Tucson+Ariz.%2C+on+Sept.+3%2C+2011.++The+UA+team+won+3-0.%0AKeith+Hickman-Perfetti+%2F+Arizona+Daily+WIldcat%0A%0A%0A
Keith Hickman-Perfetti
The University of Arizona’s Women’s Volleyball Team plays Eastern Washington at the McKale Center in Tucson Ariz., on Sept. 3, 2011. The UA team won 3-0. Keith Hickman-Perfetti / Arizona Daily WIldcat

Her mom gave her an ultimatum. Cursty Jackson had to choose between volleyball and basketball.

Already a member of her high school’s track and field team, Jackson wanted to be a triple-threat athlete. Her willingness to do it all showed signs of her unyielding ambition, but her mom had her best interests in mind.

When asked how she made her pivotal decision, Jackson immediately smiled.

“I chose volleyball because I could not pivot in basketball,” she said, laughing. “I was having the toughest time pivoting, doing a reverse pivot. I was like, ‘I can’t do it.’

“Even today I struggle with footwork in volleyball, so that’s one of my weaknesses,” she added.

Despite her modesty, it’s difficult to tell Jackson has footwork problems. The senior middle blocker moves across the net with authority, quickly traveling back and forth between both pins.
“I decided to go out on a limb, go with volleyball and I just enjoyed playing it more.”

From transfer to leader

Jackson’s choice led to a full-ride scholarship, something she never expected.

“Coming from a place like my high school where no kids were getting recruited, I was like the first person in 20 years to get a full scholarship,” said Jackson, who is originally from Los Angeles.

As a permanent starter for Arizona in 2010 following a transfer from UNLV, Jackson led the Wildcats with 133 total blocks.

“Last year, I did have a role. I had to do my job, but if I didn’t do my job, it wasn’t as noticeable,” Jackson said. “Now, I have eight freshmen staring at me, and if I don’t show up to practice, and if I’m not in a good mood, they notice and it’s contagious. I have to always keep myself in check about that.”

Arizona volleyball head coach Dave Rubio describes her as a natural-born leader.

“In all my years of coaching here, Cursty is one of my luckiest transfers I’ve ever seen,” Rubio said. “Two reasons for that: she’s a tremendous athlete, and she’s got an amazing personality — great charisma, outstanding leadership skills.”

And this year, Jackson was selected as a captain on the Wildcats.

“She brings so many things to the team, not just being a terrific athlete and a great player, but she brings a tremendous amount of intangible aspects that for a young team like us really help out in planning and working towards success,” Rubio said. “She commands respect because of that, which I think is the number one thing you need to have if you’re going to be a leader — you’ve got to be able to walk the talk.”

Road to red and blue

Despite the senior being a Wildcat for only one year prior, the rise from transfer to captain in such a short period is telling of Jackson’s leadership qualities.

She transferred from UNLV to Arizona for her last two years of college, and while players often transfer because of disagreements with coaches, teammates or a lack of playing time, that wasn’t the case with Jackson.

“Going to UNLV, I think it’s a blessing, because I wouldn’t be as nearly skilled or as good as I am,” Jackson said.

As a Rebel, she hit the ground running and was forced to take on a lot of responsibility as a freshman.

“Most freshmen, they don’t have the opportunity to just be thrown in there and told (they) have to produce,” Jackson said. “A lot of our freshmen here, they’re competing for playing time, and they might not get to see the court until their junior year, full time. But, at UNLV, that’s the role I was forced to take on.”

She said she had qualms about leaving Nevada.

“I love the coach, I love the area and I could see myself living there after college,” Jackson said. “It was just a number of reasons; just the competition level wasn’t as high and I definitely wanted that change of pace. It basically came down to volleyball, which was the only reason that I transferred.”

“We went 8-20 my sophomore year, which is tough,” she added. “We played almost thirty games (and) to lose almost all of those 30 games, it just takes a toll on you emotionally when you are student athlete. At times volleyball takes up the majority of your life.”

Overlooking Arizona

The decision was made — Jackson wanted to transfer, and she wanted to go to a Pac-10 school, she said.

She began sending out emails to all the conference schools — except Arizona.

“It’s funny, because when I was transferring I was like, ‘OK, I want to go to a Pac-10 school, stay on the West Coast and I didn’t send an email to Arizona,’” Jackson said. “I was just like, ‘hm, I want to go somewhere in California.’”

At the same time, Rubio was in the market for a middle blocker. Jackson’s previous club volleyball coach, a friend of Rubio’s, steered him in Jackson’s direction, she said. Rubio immediately began recruiting her.

“I came on a visit here and fell in love with the team,” Jackson said. “David is awesome. I can genuinely say he’s going to be my best friend after college — he’s cool. Of course, you have your moments where you get annoyed by how much coaching you’re under — you get frustrated — but he’s a really genuine person.”

With other big hitters like Oregon giving her offers, Jackson looked to her mom for guidance.

“She told me on my visit after she had dinner with (Rubio), ‘you should come here.’ And, it was after I went on my visit to Oregon, and I was set on Oregon. My mom was like, ‘(Rubio) just has some good character,’ so I really liked it and I committed.”

After her last season as a Wildcat, Jackson will graduate with a degree in criminal justice. She wants to be a detective for the FBI.

“I’m obsessed with “CSI” and “Law and Order”,” she said.

But before her detective dreams come true, she plans on playing volleyball.

“I want to play volleyball until I can’t walk anymore.”

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