Women’s Volleyball and The Future of Sports at ACC

The Women’s Volleyball Club at ACC has been seeing some big changes lately – in both the organization and its members. Meet the team and read about some of ACC Sports’ recent developments here.

By Eliana Nieto and Nathan Adam Spear

The time is 6:00 PM on Feb. 1, the energy in the gym is buzzing and excitement grows palpable as game time nears closer for ACC’s Women’s Club Volleyball team. Kaieva, a player and first year ACC student, warms up with her teammates after traveling all the way to San Antonio for their game against the University of the Incarnate Word; but, listening to music, Kaieva doesn’t let any pressure break her focus – for her and her teammates, what makes the whole thing worth it is simply being part of the team. After scoring a point, she says, “I cannot even describe how exciting it is. …you truly feel like that is the moment when you feel part of the team, which is super awesome.”

The members of the nine-woman student organization that I spoke to all shared grit and a true passion for their sport ,as well as an appreciation for the opportunity at ACC. Since the team had formed earlier last year, sports at ACC has grown in outreach and as a whole as well. Now in recent semesters, the girls have had the opportunity to play games both here in Austin, as well as in San Antonio against other schools like Incarnate Word and Palo Alto College. 

The ACC Volleyball team plays a match at the Austin Recreation Center in October, 2023. Photo taken by Ky San Diego.

The transition into becoming a traveling team and finding a permanent home to practice in has not been easy, but through the determination amongst teammates and efforts of leadership, the possibilities have been opened up more for the volleyball team. Elisha Macgregor, a Student Government officer who has been advocating for the group and helping promote their activity across campuses, even recalls a moment last year when the volleyball players had been told they could not participate in a game scheduled in San Antonio – but only after the team had driven several hours to go play it. 

MacGregor clarifies that they lacked the necessary approval from Dr. Rhodes – ACC’s previous Chancellor who was still leaving the position at that time – for the trip. She adds that the reason why more opportunities for the team have become available now is the sport’s purposeful transition from a part of curriculum, which requires more approval for activities, to existing as a Student Organization like other clubs.

The added flexibility as a club has been a huge benefit for the sport and others like volleyball at ACC to stay active, especially without an official place to play on most campuses, including Highland. The Coach of the team and athletics manager at ACC for 14 years, Tracy Partin, explains that “…to practice, for us to play our games – It was really tough this Spring. Most of our games have been on the road because I was not able to secure a rec center or a gym. That’s why we need a gym.” 

Around a year ago, the clear lack of a recreation center or active sports team at ACC is actually what brought MacGregor to work with the Student Government Association only a few days after she had first enrolled in the school with a major in Sports Psychology. “My goal was to work with elite athletes, and I was looking for a place where I [had] access to them,” she says, “then when I came here, there was like … nothing. It was like nada.” 

Deciding that “someone needs to do something about it,” MacGregor has been working with Coach Partin and the SGA to get approval for work on a new “multi-purpose center” at ACC’s Highland campus.  The initial intention for the location was solely as a gym area to be used by ACC’s sports teams for home games and intramurals; but the expanded title of “multi-purpose” room is part of an effort by the student planners to broaden the services offered and subsequent appeal of these developments.

ACC’s Chancellor, Russell Lowery-Hart (right), holds a volleyball signed by the Women’s Vollyeball Club and given to him by Elisha MacGregor (unpictured) to promote the team during his campus tours in October, 2023. Photo taken by Nathan Adam Spear.

Now, MacGregor says, the recreation center can benefit the general student community as well as the school, and she references “gaming rooms” at Tesla work facilities when observing how having a similarly no-stress zone on campus could benefit success rates. “Why don’t we maximize our potential?” 

“We have the money… We just need to find a way to request something,” she added, describing how plans to address a less specific population are more likely to yield positive data and approval from the board. “Like is this a need? Do we need a gym or do we need a multipurpose room?”

A closed entrance to the unused building at ACC’s Highland campus that students are campiagning to develop into a new “multi-purpose center”. Photo taken in May of 2023 by Nathan Adam Spear

More so than the money, MacgGregor emphasizes that ACC even already has the space for these developments. Large yet somehow without drawing attention, a building connected to building 4000 at the Highland campus currently stands without any official use by the school according to MacGregor’s research. “Based on the report that I read, the company who is in charge is waiting upon request to do whatever the college wants,” she said before pointing my attention toward the wall in 4000 which currently blocks off a former entrance to the area.

A wall in building 4000 of ACC’s Highland campus which MacGregor says previously led to the now unused building beyond it. Photo taken in May of 2023 by Nathan Adam Spear

For a perspective on size, she describes the unused building’s original features from when it was a shopping mall before being purchased in 2012. “They had a food court over there, they had a Macy’s over there… I think they used to even have like, ice skating.”

MacGregor says that currently her focus is on simply attracting attention toward the multi-purpose room for gathering data and observing its need – “we need to push publicity,” she says, which has since involved developing the sports and volleyball community at ACC.

Now it seems that passing advertisements for the women’s volleyball club – like on the ACCTV slideshows that decorate campus walls – has become a common experience for many in-person ACC students. MacGregor says tabling on campus to receive petition signatures for the project has also proven very effective for promotion, boasting a current number of over 800 students signed on already.

Until these ambitious developments see light, Coach Partin says that for now, “With the rec centers, it’s been pretty good. The fact that I used to work with them made it easier for me because I knew a lot of people had a lot of contacts within Austin. But they have their own programs, and then they have contract labor groups that are in there using the gym – So especially this spring was really tough. I’m hoping someday, ACC will be able to develop or build an activity and wellness recreational sports center for the students.”

Volleyball Club Coach Partin puts up the River-Bats handsign during one of the team’s games at the Austin Recreation Center. Photo taken in October of 2023 by Ky San Diego

All of this recent growth has opened up a new reality for the Volleyball Club girls, as their team is finally getting the resources it needs to really practice and find a home. Especially since the team has started traveling, Coach Partin’s biggest hope is for motivation towards these changes to continue. Currently, the club’s teams are practicing at the Austin Recreation Center when the schedule and availability permits, but Partin stresses that ACC opening its own recreation center could be a big game changer – not just for the athletics department, but for students in general. He says wellness and community is just the beginning of what a recreation center could offer to the student body. 

Not only has the ACC’s Women’s Club Volleyball Team and Athletics Department been going through big changes, but so have the members of the team due to the organization’s development. The members I spoke with say they have all gained unique experiences that have contributed to the quality of their group and their own personal growth after joining the team.

The ACC Women’s Volleyball Club join hands before a game. Photo taken in October of 2023 by Ky San Diego

Adia, a third-year member as well as President of the now Student Organization, discussed how joining volleyball has allowed her to have fun while fulfilling leadership positions and completing a lot of behind the scenes work for the team. “…a lot of the time it’s chaos times ten, you know, managing everything. We’re a very small team that works our tournaments and games and all that. I get here and I get to watch the behind the scenes, I get to up-rep, down-rep and get to enjoy with everybody but it’s so different when you also play because that connection that we share- just our little team is all so different. It’s a lot of fun to just experience both sides.”. 

Although Adia’s schedule can become jam-packed, she emphasized that the team spirit and the sport itself make up for it. “I’m an assistant property manager so I already do my career stuff and ACC is where I come to play volleyball for me to get my associates. But it’s definitely helped, I had an injury in high school and I wasn’t planning on playing again until I came to ACC, so it’s definitely helped me grow as a person again and come back into it- and getting you know, to work out again and get to meet all these fun friends, it’s definitely been a lot of fun.”.

There is also no shortage of leadership positions and opportunities within the ACC Club Volleyball Team for students like Kaieva Jack, a first-year student and Vice-President of the Club Volleyball Team. She highlighted how her time so far with the team has prepared her for responsibilities that surpass the world of sports. Kaieva also appreciates how inclusive the team and the members of it have been, and how this has changed a lot of her past perceptions about being new to a group. “It helped challenge me because it forced me into a leadership position… being on a volleyball team, you have to have some type of leadership. Even if you’re not the quote-unquote ‘captain’, you still have to be encouraging, which takes leadership skills within yourself to push yourself and others.” 

Kaieva also adds that the friendships she’s been able to make are a crucial part of enjoying her sport to the fullest. “It challenged me to really get out of my comfort zone socially. I’m used to playing club teams or school teams, where I know everyone, right?- Coming to ACC, where I don’t know anyone in the beginning, and then having to play with these girls every week and playing tournaments with them, it was very uncomfortable, but super fun.”

If there’s one person who truly stands as a testament to the power of friendship and team sports facilitating personal growth, it would be Valerie, a second-year student at ACC and first-year member of ACC’s Club Volleyball Team. Valerie explained to me that she had plenty of fears before joining the team, but now she has built some amazing friendships as a result of taking that leap. “Whenever I was trying out for this team, I was very very anxious- And so whenever I walked in, I actually started talking to Kaieva, she was the first person I met, and after starting to get to know everybody, not just her, but as a community of people that were there, I was like, wow, these are really great girls. You’re making a lot of friendships, we’ve all gotten so close.”. 

The team poses for a quick picture with ACC’s mascot, R.B. Photo taken in October of 2023 by Ky San Diego

Perhaps the most amazing part of it all is that the anxiety that Valerie once felt when transitioning to a new team is what she says has become one of the most grounding and comforting experiences for her so far. “This is the closest I’ve gotten with a team in the entirety of me being in sports – from middle school to now. I feel like I’ve grown up enough to understand different people’s perspectives, and it’s like we all have a lot of things in common now. It’s a breath of fresh air to be able to be able to bond with a team the way that I’m able to. I thought it’d just be a regular team that I’d see like twice a week, but after the first couple of practices, I was like, dang, I’m actually getting really close with these people. And we’re all in it together no matter what at this point.”.

The Women’s Club Volleyball team has proven to be a strong group, bearing through the hardships of finding recreation centers to play and practice at, as well as picking up traction to become a traveling team and develop their own recreation center. With ACC’s sports community and especially the volleyball team’s activity now on the radar, there’s no telling how far athletics can grow at the college.