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Mallinger succeeding at Christian Heritage

June 23, 2001|By JON HINSHAW, Sports Writer

Picture a college freshman walking into a college straight out of high school with the expectations of playing volleyball, getting involved in student leadership and starting down the academic road to becoming a doctor.

Pressure? Nervousness? Not meeting your own or others' expectations?


Former Southwest High School volleyball standout Leah Mallinger walked into Christian Heritage College in El Cajon last fall with the aforementioned plans and succeeded beyond her own and others' expectations.

Mallinger started 29 of 30 games for the Hawks and finished as the third-ranked setter in the Golden State Athletic Conference. She was the GSAC and NAIA Division I region II (covering California and Arizona) player of the week.

In Christian Heritage's subsidiary league — the National Christian College Athletic Association — Mallinger was named a national player of the week and was chosen a first team All-American.


Mallinger was president of her freshman class, finished with a 3.86 grade-point average and was honored as chemistry student of the year.


"Looking back at everything I did I thought I was crazy to do all that," said the 19-year-old Mallinger. "I did it by organizing my time really well and I found when I budgeted my time everything worked out fine."

Organizing her schedule was Mallinger's first priority as she was quickly taken aback by a volleyball schedule that demanded up to eight hours a day of practice and preparation. Regular two-a-day practices and sometimes triple sessions made for a hectic school schedule.

"We kind of went to school as a secondary thing," the 5-foot-11-inch Mallinger said. "The teachers were really cool with me and they really worked with me. I was able to handle it all but it took lots of late-night studying."

Mallinger was one of eight freshmen on the Hawks' squad. A setter in high school, Mallinger wanted to continue at that position at the college level and Christian Heritage needed just that. She beat out her only competition and took off from there.

Only a broken finger and a concussion that caused her to miss one start kept her from playing in all 30 matches.

"What I was planning to do was to just come in and play hard," Mallinger said. "All I could do was prove myself."

Mallinger did that from day one.

Showcasing her skills and comfort in as a setter, Mallinger immediately began making a name for herself. Midway through the season she was the GSAC's player of the week after a two-match total of 132 assists, 16 digs, eight blocks and two aces.

Mallinger finished third in the GSAC in assists per game and fifth in aces. She averaged 12.33 assists per game. Mallinger credited much of her success to teammate Heather Davis, a senior and the reigning NCCAA and GSAC player of the year.

"She was very picky," Mallinger said with a laugh. "Early in the season I heard her say ‘I like her' about me and I was jazzed after that. I just wanted to make it happen for me and it all clicked."

The Hawks finished sixth in the GSAC with a record of 6-12 and had an overall mark of 15-17. Christian Heritage attended the NCCAA nationals in Cedarville, Ohio, and earned second place.

Mallinger was pleased with everyone's effort after the program practically started over with eight freshmen and a new head coach. Mallinger felt great strides were made and she is looking forward to her sophomore season.

"Practices were crazy," said Mallinger. "We would do whatever our coach (Carrie Wright) wanted to do that day. We really grew as a team, though.

"We did a lot of different things in college that we didn't do in high school," she added. "In high school the game is high and loopy and you have time to do things. Now you have to be quick and use precise hitting and fakes. It's so much quicker and faster and I've adjusted my game for that.

"It's the mental aspect of the game that I'm growing in the most," continued Mallinger, who competed against ex-Olympic players from China, Brazil and the Netherlands in her freshman year. "My coach, teammates and I sit down all the time and talk about what we did right or wrong."

Mallinger is to report for the fall semester and season Aug. 9. The first two weeks of school will be filled with volleyball, academics and business in Mallinger's continuing role as class president. She is looking forward to the juggling acts of athletics and academia once again.

"I can handle the responsibility of being a team leader, school and the sophomore class president," she said. "At the end of last year we had a team meeting and I told my coach I was going to be the top setter in the GSAC and be a player of the year. I want to be the best that I can be. Mixing school and sports is tough but I enjoy doing it.

"I'll be fine."

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