By Bill Sheehan
Volleyball player Felicia Marshall didn't take the most direct path to Cal State Fullerton.
She left her Utah hometown in 2016 to attend a community college in Rock Springs, Wyoming. Last year, Marshall relocated to Grossmont College in El Cajon. But she endured the moves because she was pursuing her goal of playing for a Division 1 school.
Now, Marshall is living her dream. She joined the Fullerton volleyball team in August and has become the starting outside hitter for the Titans.
The 20-year-old junior is second on the team with 163 overall points. She is second in kills (147), third in digs (129) and first in double-doubles with three.
"It's been a lot of fun with the team," said Marshall. "There is a lot of competition in the gym. I have a lot to learn."
Although the Titans, 6-11 overall, have lost their last 10 matches, they have already exceeded their five wins in 2017. Fullerton hopes to get back on track Saturday against UC Riverside in a Big West Conference match at the Titan Gym. Starting time is 5 p.m., and the first 100 students will receive free T-shirts.
"It's been frustrating [losing], but we're not going to stop working harder and harder," said Marshall, "As long as we keep staying focused and keep working in practice, we should be fine."
Titan head coach Ashley Preston said Marshall has given the Titans a boost, on and off the court.
"She brings a lot of energy and excitement and has become our emotional leader. She gets so excited whenever we score a point," said Preston, who added that Marshall's enthusiasm has rubbed off on her teammates as well.
Although the Titans often face taller frontlines, Preston has encouraged the 5-foot-10 Marshall and Madeline Schneider, a 5-foot-11 opposite hitter, to be more aggressive.
"Felicia and Maddy are our go-to-hitters. I've told them that they can still put the ball away, even if the other girls are taller."
"It's fun to watch Felicia play. She flies; she gets up high and hits very hard, with a good shot selection."
Jada Wyms, who played volleyball with Marshall at Layton Christian Academy in Layton, Utah, said she's not surprised her former teammate is excelling on the Division 1 level.
"I saw that coming in our sophomore year of high school," said Wyms. "Felicia is very passionate, outgoing and confident, and very athletic. She gets people around her to play better. And she doesn't like to lose."
Marshall was born and raised in Clinton, a city of 21,000 people 30 miles north of Salt Lake City.
Father is a volleyball coach
Her father, Victor, the women's volleyball coach at Layton Christian, began coaching Marshall when she was in fifth grade. One of her two older sisters, Andrea, played Division II volleyball at Texas A&M International University in Laredo and also included Felicia in her workouts.
"My goal was to make her quicker and stronger," said Victor, who had a 23-year career in the Air Force before becoming a coach. "But the girls found the best way to stay fit was playing keep-away with our two chocolate labs using a deflated soccer ball."
"Felicia is so personable. She is always smiling, always happy. When you are around her, you are in a good mood. She's a very good team player," said Victor. "And she's very passionate. She wears her feelings on her sleeve."
Marshall played volleyball all four years at Layton Christian. She also ran track and played basketball. In the latter, she earned the school's defensive-player-of-the-year award.
"I had a lot of fun at Layton Christian Academy. There are a lot of international students there, and I learned about different languages and cultures," said Marshall, who also played for the Utah Ice Volleyball Club.
Marshall sought out Fullerton
In her senior year, Marshall emailed letter to Preston to see if Fullerton had any openings on its volleyball team. "We didn't have a scholarship for Felicia at that point," said Preston.
In fact, the only school that showed an interest was Western Wyoming Community College in Rock Springs, about an hour-and-a-half drive east of Clinton. Marshall earned All-Region honors and was named the team's Freshman of the Year at Western Wyoming, but she transferred out after one year.
"The coaches were really nice, and the girls were really good to me," said Marshall. "But it was in the middle of nowhere and there really wasn't much to do."
Preston, who was following her progress from afar, told Grossmont College volleyball coach Jamie Ivers about Marshall. "Jamie runs a great program at Grossmont, and I though Felicia could help them out," said Preston, who noted that her father, Anthony Preston, and Marshall's father, Victor, know each other. Both live in Utah.
"I always wanted to go to Southern California," said Marshall. She ended up playing both indoor and beach volleyball at Grossmont for Ivers, who is a Fullerton graduate and a former All-Big West Conference outside hitter. "Coach Ivers was really nice. Being in the San Diego area was fun."
Scouted at practice, Sophomore Showcase
When Preston called Ivers inquiring about potential 2018 recruits for Fullerton, the Grossmont coach gave Marshall a ringing endorsement. "Jamie told me how great Felicia was doing," said Preston. "I went to a Grossmont practice. Later, I saw her play at the Sophomore Showcase at Solano Community College in Fairfield." And the Fullerton coach was very impressed.
After taking a recruiting trip, Marshall was sold on Fullerton. "I loved the environment and the diverse culture," said Marshall. "The girls were really nice to me. I felt like I was part of the team on my visit. That helped me make my decision."
A sociology major, Marshall is considering a career in social work, possibly working with foster children. But she would first like to take a shot at professional volleyball, either in the U.S. or overseas.
Marshall, no stranger to traveling, has already traveled to New York City, Las Vegas and Hawaii for matches this season. "It's been a really cool experience," she said. "And I've always wanted to go to these places."
But home, of course, is her favorite destination.
"I love going back home to Utah," said Marshall, who enjoys spending time with her parents, Victor and Rochelle, and her sisters Andrea and Vanesa.
While in Utah, she has time for a hobby: Hair and nails. "I like to do box braids for my sisters. And I paint my mom's nails with dual designs."
Her father said Marshall always takes time to speak with students at her high school. "She helps me with the girls on the team," said Victor. "She's a mentor for them. She shares all of her experiences, and they look up to her."
And with her Fullerton career just taking off, she should have much more to tell the young volleyball players down the line.
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