Long Beach State may have another Olympic athlete in the making.
Freshman outside hitter Caitlin Ledoux is only three months into her collegiate career, but her importance to the women’s volleyball team is enormous.
The super-freshman has started all 17 matches and appeared in all 66 sets in her collegiate career to help the No. 24 49ers post a 14-3 record.
Ledoux currently leads the team with 208 kills, is fourth in digs with 155 and is tied for the team lead with 14 service aces.
It usually takes some time for freshmen athletes to adapt to college competition — Ledoux is no ordinary freshman.
Against No. 22 Cal Poly, she recorded a career-high with 20 kills to go with 12 digs in a five-set ‘Niner victory last Friday. The very next night against UC Santa Barbara, Ledoux topped her career-high by hammering 22 kills and tallied 14 digs.
Ledoux’s outstanding weekend led to being named the Big West Player of the Week — her first honor.
Teammate Iris Murray marvels at Ledoux’s talent and is impressed at how well her freshman teammate handles her responsibilities.
“We have had to count on her more than any other freshman that I can remember in my five years being here,” Murray said. “We count on her so much and she doesn’t even notice it because volleyball really comes natural to her. She’s a natural competitor and athlete.”
As a freshman in high school, Ledoux got her first letter of interest from LBSU and later committed in her sophomore year.
Head coach Brian Gimmillaro realizes what a special player Ledoux is and the job she has done already.
“It is very difficult for a freshman to come into any college, especially this one, and to play a major role,” he said. “No one on the team is asked to do more on the team and she gets better every day. We’re happy to have her.”
Playing well is only part of the equation for success at LBSU. Athletes in the women’s volleyball program must be great teammates — Ledoux is just that.
“Nobody comes here if they’re not [a great teammate],” Gimmillaro said. “Long Beach State is so demanding, and has been so demanding all these years. You have to pride yourself on being a great teammate.”
As a blossoming volleyball star, it could be easy to forget the real reason for attending LBSU: education.
Ledoux, who started playing volleyball in middle school, clearly has an agenda set for what she wants to achieve while in college. She has already started taking classes for her kinesiology major and psychology minor.
The adjustment to the workload has not been hard though, as Ledoux has already found a balance in her school and social life.
“I have class every day from 8 to about 11, and then practice, and then I have the rest of the day off to do whatever I need to do … homework, go out with friends, so it works out really well,” said Ledoux. “I took [five] AP classes in high school, so I’m used to balancing school and volleyball.”
This past summer, Ledoux got a taste of international competition as she and teammate Tara Roenicke went to the Netherlands to compete against more than 40 countries in beach volleyball.
“We played countries like Russia and the Czech [Republic], France, tons of countries,” Ledoux said. “Being there with a bunch of different people and getting to know them and playing in a different country and being in Europe, wearing the USA bathing suit, it was really cool.”
The international competition could serve her well for her main objective — the Olympics.
Ledoux, 18, turned down schools such as USC, Stanford, Pepperdine, Texas and Hawaii to come play for Gimmillaro at The Beach.
“I wanted to come here because Brian has the best record for sending girls to the Olympics and the national team,” Ledoux said. “That’s my goal.”
Gimmillaro, who has coached Olympians such as Misty May-Treanor, Tayyiba Haneef-Park and Tara Cross-Battle, is aware of Ledoux’s goal and is taking her ambitions very seriously.
“She trusts me with her professional future, and I will do everything within my means to make sure that it happens,” Gimmillaro said. “We are lucky enough to have more experience than anyone in the country with [women’s volleyball Olympians]. I would have told her truthfully if that probably wouldn’t happen. It will happen.”