Owning the net

Kaelia Neal, Editor-in-chief

Freshmen benchwarmers don’t expect to touch the court – ever. Their job is to pick up pointers from the sidelines, not the field of play.

Regan Dean was fully prepared to accept that role on the Linfield volleyball team. “I really didn’t think I would touch the court until I was a junior,” she said.

But when the team’s lone senior quit, Dean was next in line at outside hitter.

Colleagues are looking to the 5’9” blonde to fill a role that once belonged to the team captain.

And she isn’t disappointing them.

Called to play at a higher level, Dean has stepped up her game. As a result, Linfield was on a six game winning streak at the start of the season. More often than not, Dean is one of players who has the most kills in a game.

“It’s kind of crazy,” Dean said.

“For some reason I’m excelling on this team. I’ve never played as well as well as I’m playing now.”

She said, “It feels great to know you’re getting better. That’s what I’m pursuing – that getting-better feeling.”

Though there’s not a single senior left on this year’s team, Dean isn’t intimidated.

“I feel comfortable with the girls,” she said. “I know the girls have faith in me. I know that all the coaching staff is in my corner.”

Dean gave up basketball in favor of volleyball back in the sixth grade. Although her love for the game was clear, her play soon began to plateau.

Her first two years of high school, she didn’t receive any honor mentions.

But her junior year, she made huge strides in her game. That propelled her to first team all-league and second team all-state honors.

She credits her success to her high school coach, Becky Kemper.

“She’s the person who pushed me to where I am today,” Dean said. “She was a tough coach, but I kind of needed that.”

Due to the stress, many athletes get burned out in high school, to the point of not wanting to continue in college. But that wasn’t the case for Dean.

Thanks to steady guidance from Kemper and steady support from her parents, she never felt pressured.

She’s following in the footsteps of her parents in both her collegiate and athletic choices. After all, they met at Linfield, where her dad played football and her mom played basketball.

But she said those were her decisions, and they were freely made. “I’m definitely here because I want to be here, because I love playing volleyball,” she said.

Her parents are now divorced, but they are both dedicated to attending Dean’s volleyball games.

Dean laughed as she recalled looking up in the stands to see her older sister, Taylor, and Taylor’s boyfriend, sitting between her dad’s side of the family and her mom’s side of the family at a recent match.

A teammate said she didn’t think she’d ever seen Dean’s parents sit so close at a game.

The two are also supporting Dean in other decisions in her life, even when those decisions run counter to their own.

Dean is majoring in political science and minoring in Spanish at Linfield. Driven by a desire to help Latino families stay together, she’s aiming to go into immigration law.

That drive stems from the close ties she’s developed with best friend Ana Sophia, who came to the U.S. as a foreign exchange student from Mexico. They met at Valley Catholic High School, where Sophia was assigned.

The two soon became inseparable, and Dean’s love for the Mexican culture grew exponentially.

“Mexico is very dear to my heart,” Dean said – to the point where she would like to study abroad in a Spanish-speaking country before she graduates.

She said she started out in school identifying with the Republican Party because her parents did. She recalls in disbelief some of the stands she took while debating politics with her teachers in middle school.

But at Valley Catholic, Dean’s views started to evolve.

“The more I thought about it, the more my opinions changed,” she said. “All I know is, I’m against discrimination and very in favor of everyone’s needs.”

And surprisingly, her parents are fine with that. They’ve “chilled out,” she said.