My Life as a Volleyball Photographer

by Deangelo Handley

Saluki Volleyball team cheering after a game.

The summer before my freshman year, I became passionate about photography and knew that’s what I wanted to do. When I got to college and started taking classes, I realized I needed to build a portfolio, since I didn’t have one yet. Because it was my first year in college and I didn’t know where to start building a portfolio, I started attending the volleyball games. I didn’t understand volleyball much since I haven’t played it and I didn’t know their statistics and rules until I did some research and finally learned what the terms are such as Aces, Kills, Digs, and errors.

I was eager to get to know the team a little more, learn about who they are, what positions they play, and how they play for them to win. When the season started, they came out focused with a lot of energy and they weren’t frightened by any team they played. The crowd cheered and shouted for them during intense games, and you could feel the joy and excitement inside of Davies Gym.

Shifting Focus

Nataly Garcia passing the ball during a game (the team is wearing pink for breast cancer awareness).

As we got in the middle of the season, I shifted my portfolio to focus on a particular player named Nataly Garcia. As this happened, there was a huge turn for the team. They lost six games straight. They faced difficult obstacles, and they couldn’t seem to get past them for some reason. Nataly explained how it was a mental battle, everyone wasn’t there mentally and that took effect during the games.

Teamwork and a Comeback

Once they noticed this, they started to work together again, worked hard during practice, and pushed one another to go all out. They encouraged each other to keep going and continued to work harder during practice so when they faced the next team they would be prepared and not inside their heads.

When they came back in the final seven conference games, they were even better as a team than ever before. I understood the meaning of working as a team. For them to win, they had to work together and help one another to do better. Communication during the game to know where the ball is going and who will go for it, calling plays to change formation to attack the ball and gain a point, and most of all being there for each other mentally is what led them to being a great team.

Team huddle between plays during a game.

They finished the conference with a seven-game win streak and with that they were able to make the playoffs. If you haven’t heard, they had the most wins since 2016, first Missouri Valley Conference tournament win since 2013, while having back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 2015-2016.

Overall, following the team throughout the semester helped me learn how to work together with others to overcome challenges. What started out as a photography job turned into a love for the sport of volleyball and watching this team play.

If you have an interest in photography, check out SIU’s Photography program. Interested in playing volleyball at SIU? Fill out this recruiting questionnaire.

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