Senior Highlight: Charlie Ekstrom

After 5 seasons on the Farm, Charlie Ekstrom has confirmed to be a stand-out participant and has helped elevate the seaside volleyball program to new heights. She was a most important contributor because the workforce scored its first-ever win within the NCAA event this 12 months. She began her collegiate profession sturdy and was named to the Pac-12 All-Freshman Staff (2019). A plethora of awards adopted: All-Pac-12 Second Staff (2019, 2020, 2022, 2023), AVCA Collegiate Seaside Second Staff All-American (2022) and even the AVCA Collegiate Seaside Prime Flight Award with associate Maddi Kriz (2022). For her efforts within the classroom, Ekstrom is a 3 time Pac-12 Educational Honor Roll (2020, 2021, 2022) recipient. 

The Each day’s Chantal Eiwanger sat down with Ekstrom to replicate on her time at Stanford, what she’s going to take away from 5 years with the Cardinal and what her future seems like as knowledgeable. 

The Stanford Each day (TSD): What made you select seaside volleyball? Did you play some other sports activities rising up? 

Charlie Ekstrom (CE): I suppose I can begin with the opposite sports activities that I performed after which clarify why I ended up selecting seaside. My first sport rising up was karate. I performed rec tennis and rec sports activities leagues, however the factor that I used to be undoubtedly probably the most invested in was karate. I skilled for 9 and a half years. After which after I was within the seventh or eighth 12 months of karate is after I found volleyball. As a result of I’m from San Diego, I began enjoying indoor and seaside volleyball, and I used to be lucky sufficient to reside in a spot the place seaside volleyball was actually current and really simply accessible. Once I began enjoying indoor, it was type of the pure tendency to additionally play seaside. I all the time actually cherished seaside greater than indoor volleyball. It was very easy for me to determine to go away indoor. There have been some fairly unhealthy issues like bullying that ended up having me lose my love for indoor volleyball. I used to be already far more obsessed with seaside, so I took that zeal and ran with it. I went full-time seaside after I was 15 years outdated. I’ve been coaching, touring and doing all of these items ever since.

TSD: Did you all the time know you needed to play seaside volleyball in school? 

CE: I feel from the second I began enjoying it, sure. Once I was slightly and I didn’t know what seaside volleyball was, all I needed to do was go to Stanford. I didn’t know something in regards to the college in any respect. I used to be identical to, ‘Gabriella from Excessive College Musical went there, so I’ve to go there.’ After which I began enjoying volleyball and I really had a household buddy whose cousin performed Stanford indoor volleyball. I keep in mind pondering that it might be so enjoyable to play volleyball at Stanford. After which I began enjoying seaside like three months later, and as soon as I began enjoying seaside, it was all I needed to do. However seaside volleyball was nonetheless attempting to work in direction of being an NCAA sport. As soon as seaside volleyball was named an NCAA sport [in 2015], that was after I was all in for seaside volleyball. I didn’t care the place I went. I simply needed to play. I had been dedicated elsewhere for a 12 months after which after some adjustments to their program, I reached out to Stanford on a whim. I had the belief that I ought to attain out to Stanford and see if I may observe that pipe dream.

TSD: What has been the spotlight of your time right here at Stanford, each on the seaside volleyball workforce and off?

CE: I feel the spotlight of being on the workforce was with the ability to see this system develop. We began out as a really tiny workforce that was not anticipated to essentially win something, being unranked my freshman 12 months. From there, we’ve elevated into this prime 10 program for the final three years. Some fundamental highlights embrace after we upset UCLA and LSU this 12 months. These had been most likely the 2 coolest moments after we upset two top-five applications. We had by no means accomplished that earlier than.

My spotlight at Stanford usually are the chums that I’ve made right here. I’ve been in a position to do plenty of fairly cool issues and be part of some cool management roles, however I feel crucial piece of all is the chums that I’ve made alongside the best way. An enormous piece of my very own private progress got here from the folks that I met at Stanford, and I do know for a incontrovertible fact that I’m going to be shut to those folks for the remainder of my life.

TSD: What recommendation would you give your freshman self? 

CE: Let the adversity be what it’s. It can let you develop and to not solely grow to be a extra expert volleyball participant, however grow to be an general extra well-rounded human being.

TSD: Wanting again at your time at Stanford, is there something you’ll change? 

CE: No, I actually like the individual that I’m as we speak. I really feel that if I modified something that might be a type of issues that causes a series response. I feel throughout COVID when our season was canceled, [that] would have been the straightforward reply however I feel that 12 months was probably the most important 12 months for me. I used to be in a position to develop nearer with my friendships and I acquired to take my precedence away from volleyball and determine what I needed to do past and what stage I needed to pursue it at. Upon reflection, I’m actually grateful as a result of I don’t assume that I might have gotten the possibility to step again and in addition wouldn’t be doing a grasp’s diploma, as a result of I don’t assume I might have accomplished an extra diploma with out the volleyball with it. All of the issues which have occurred, all the explanations and the issues they’ve produced from them, I’m actually grateful for.

TSD: Your first 12 months on the workforce you went 11-18 and had been unranked nationally, after which the workforce made the NCAA event your fifth season. What do you credit score that progress to? 

CE: I feel our workforce tradition has actually shifted over time since I got here in my freshman 12 months. A whole lot of us knew that we had been a part of one thing to construct. I additionally assume that now we have shifted from taking a look at the concept we’re constructing one thing into the concept now we have now set the inspiration so let’s develop from there. We’re all the time on the lookout for extra, we’re all the time hungry for extra, we’re all the time looking out and seeking to develop and enhance ourselves. I feel that the piece of tradition that now we have produced has induced us to have the ability to elevate loads. The opposite reply to that’s that we simply have much more expertise now. We have now an even bigger workforce, we’re rather more developed and it’s simpler to recruit. Since my freshman 12 months, Stanford seaside volleyball has been in a position to elevate with the sport and herald some fairly unbelievable abilities which have simply elevated us that rather more. 

TSD: What made you determine to take your fifth 12 months? Was that ever not on the desk? 

CE: I feel getting the COVID redshirt again was a fairly optimistic indication that I might play a fifth 12 months. As soon as COVID occurred, I used to be pondering, ‘Am I actually going to be able to say goodbye after senior 12 months?’ In plenty of methods, I used to be able to say goodbye and I did say goodbye to lots of people that made up what Stanford was for me. However I feel taking the fifth 12 months gave me a cool alternative to say goodbye to the place as properly. This 12 months gave me the closure of being able to say goodbye. I knew that I didn’t need my school expertise to be over and I knew I most well-liked to remain at Stanford as a result of I find it irresistible right here a lot. 

TSD: Do you see your self being concerned in seaside volleyball sooner or later? 

CE: I’m really at present enjoying in tournaments on the skilled tour. The professional season began when school season began, so I principally took like every week between when the faculty season ended and the following professional tour occasion began. I’ll be ending up my diploma after which after that, I’ll go proper again to enjoying tournaments fairly constantly. I’ll play professionally for so long as my physique lets me and so long as I’m nonetheless loving it. I feel that an enormous motive why I play seaside volleyball is as a result of I’ve such a powerful ardour and love for it. If there may be any cut-off date the place I really feel that there’s a love loss, then that’s after I’ll most likely step away.

TSD: What are your plans post-graduation? 

CE: I’m shifting to Los Angeles to coach full-time to play skilled seaside volleyball. But in addition since skilled seaside volleyball sadly doesn’t pay, I will probably be working as properly. 

TSD: What are you going to overlook most about being on the Stanford seaside volleyball workforce? 

CE: I’m going to overlook the workforce elements of school seaside volleyball as a result of skilled seaside volleyball could be very particular person. I’m going to overlook not having a workforce to fall again to in life. All people on the workforce is such unbelievable human beings, and in order that’s a tough goodbye for certain. I used to be very teary-eyed after we had been eradicated [from the NCAA tournament] in Gulf Shores. Teary-eyed was a really gentle technique to put that, I used to be a scorching mess. However I feel that I’m prepared, keen and excited to maneuver into this subsequent chapter of life. I feel that this chapter has been such an vital one to me and I’m gonna miss being a part of the workforce for certain. 

This transcript has been frivolously edited and condensed for readability.