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Diaz not just surviving, but making an impact

The Air Force freshman, who graduated from Berkeley Prep, is leading the Mountain West Conference in kills and digs per game.

By MIKE READLING

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 10, 2000


Delavane Diaz knew when she chose to attend the Air Force Academy that her college experience was going to be different than that of most of her Berkeley Prep friends and teammates.

Turns out she wasn't entirely right.

As is typical with most fraternity and sorority initiation rituals, Diaz still finds herself standing at attention in the hallway of her dormitory for long periods of time. There are rules about not getting on her bed until after 8 p.m., complete silence outside of her room and any classroom on the campus, and the recitation of quotes and Air Force history.

The major difference is Diaz isn't pledging some sorority -- she's simply enduring life as a fourth-class cadet, otherwise known as a freshman, at the Air Force Academy.

"From the military aspect it's pretty intense. Basically your freshman year is the hardest," Diaz said. "They have morning wake-up where we have to stand at attention in the hall outside our rooms for 40 minutes and recite quotes and Air Force history. There's room inspection. ... most of us sleep on top of our beds so we don't undo the covers because it takes us 45 minutes to make the bed to pass inspection."

Rather than spend the summer between her senior year at Berkeley, where Diaz graduated from this spring, going to the beach or buying stylish clothes to make a good first impression at her new college, Diaz went through basic training.

That's three weeks of learning Air Force history, rules and regulations in classroom and three weeks in Jacks Valley, Colo., living out of a tent, surviving on your own.

"The biggest difference between this and any other school is the summer commitment," Diaz said. "We had to go through six weeks of basically a lot of people yelling at you, a lot of push-ups, rifle runs and marching."

Things got a little more normal for Diaz after she returned from the Jacks Valley excursion. Volleyball started and she was back in her natural environment. Not to mention an environment in which she could speak without being spoken to.

Diaz entered this week as the Mountain West Conference leader in kills per game (4.46) and digs per game with 3.35. Those 4.46 kills per game would put her No. 3 in the Falcons' record book for a single season.

Diaz was also named the Conference Player of the Week after the third week of play, making her the second freshman to ever earn that honor.

She received the award after leading Air Force to the championship of the Air Force Classic. In that tournament, Diaz recorded her fifth double-double of the year with a career-high 25 kills and 11 digs in a loss to Colorado. She then tallied a career-high 24 digs in a sweep of Wisconsin-Green Bay. For the week, Diaz racked up 72 kills (5.14 kills per game), 52 digs (3.71 dpg) and nine blocks en route to a .182 hitting percentage.

"When I found out I was player of the week I was shocked. I was crying. That was one of the biggest goals I set for myself before the season. But to win it in the third week was a huge shock. It made my whole day," Diaz said.

"My coach sent me an e-mail. I couldn't go to practice that day because I had a real bad cold and they put me on bed rest. My roommate read it to me off the computer. It started out, "We just got the best news ..."

The even better news for Diaz and the rest of the Air Force team is that she is the beginning of what is quickly turning into a Falcon youth movement. She is one of three freshmen and two sophomores who receive a majority of the playing time.

Diaz has used that opportunity, along with her Berkeley Prep background, to become one of the team's leaders.

"We've definitely had some things to overcome," Diaz said.

"I felt like I was able to step up into a leadership position on the floor even though I'm a freshman. I felt completely prepared coming here from Berkeley Prep. Berkeley has a much more serious volleyball program than most people here are used to coming from."

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