Schossberger Soars Above Competition

Volleyball's Manda Schossberger

It's Friday night at the Malkin Athletic Center and the Harvard women's volleyball team is leading, 15-14, in the second set of its match against Cornell.

Captain Maia Forman sets up a shot. Gradually lifting herself into the air is number 11. She pulls her arm back and spikes the ball down the middle of the Big Red's defense to win the set.

There's a big hush over the crowd as number 11 comes back down. She smiles to her sister cheering in the stands.

Number 11 is Co-Captain Manda Schossberger, one of the most feared hitters in the collegiate game.

Schossberger, a Kirkland house junior, went from the penthouse to the outhouse when she joined the Harvard women's volleyball program. At Highland High School in Pocatello, Idaho, Schossberger played for one of the best teams in the country, while the Crimson squad she joined consistently finished at the bottom of the Ivy League.

The sociology concentrator started playing volleyball competitively in the eighth grade. She led her high school team to a district championship in her junior year and a second-place finish in the state finals during her senior year, when her team finished with a 26-2 record.

"Manda was a very good hitter," says Highland Coach Peggy Peterson, who coached Schossberger in high school. "She was also an aggressive player. We relied heavily on her spiking and serving abilities. She was also a very good blocker and backcourt player. I was pleased to have her on our team."

Schossberger has mutual feelings about her former coach.

"She was a phenomonal coach," Schossberger says. "She knew everything that was happening in the volleyball world. She knew all of the new offensive and defensive sets--so we were always prepared for other teams."

When it came time to apply to colleges, Schossberger already had a link with Harvard--her older sister, Cyndy, who had come to Harvard the year before.

"It was really nice having someone from home," the younger Schossberger says. "It's great having her in the stands cheering for me. She is one of my most faithful fans. She comes to as many games as possible."

But when the Idaho native arrived at Harvard, there were no banners or titles to be won. The rafters at the MAC were empty.

"It was really frustrating at first," Schossberger says. "It's hard coming from a program that wins all the time to one that loses a lot."

During her freshmen year, the team finished with a 5-16 record under first-year Coach Wayne Lem. The record may be a little deceiving, since the squad was finally able to play competitively with other teams for the first time in a couple of years.

Even though the team lost a lot of games, Schossberger enjoyed her first year as a Crimson spiker, especially because of the team's camaraderie.