By JONAMAR JACINTO
RIPON — Adrienne Beltrami remembers a more timid and somewhat clumsy version of Karisa Carlson, who started playing volleyball her freshman year at Ripon High.
Beltrami will miss the fiery, emotional leader that Carlson became.
“Karisa is not a naturally out-going or in-your-face type of person,” Beltrami said. “When I first met her she was very timid and very shy.”
“This kid gets fired up,” Beltrami said. “I would tell the rest of the team, “Get on her level.’”
On Thursday, Carlson made her commitment to Pacific Union College official when she signed her letter of intent. She’ll join fellow Ripon grad Jacqui Uecker, Beltrami’s cousin who signed last week.
“It’s really nice,” Carlson said of joining Uecker at in Angqin, an unincorporated community in Napa County. “It’ll be nice to have someone there who knows me, knows my quirkiness and be there to talk to in case I get homesick or something.”
The 5-foot-11 middle blocker helps fill a need for Pacific Union coach Brittany Brown, who has led the Pioneers to back-to-back winning seasons — 17-10 in 2013 and 15-12 in 2014 — after they had no more than four wins in a single season from 2005-12. Brown contacted Beltrami toward the end of the school year asking if she had any seniors — especially front-row specialists — who might be interested in competing for the NAIA school that competes in the California Pacific Conference.
University of Great Falls (Montana), Benedictine University at Mesa (Arizona) and St. Gregory’s (Oklahoma) were others programs expressing interest in the All-Trans Valley League first-team selection. It just so happens that Great Falls is Pacific Union’s first opponent of the 2015 season.
Carlson is just glad to get the process over with.
“At first it was really stressful,” she said. “It was coming down to the end of my senior year and I was about to graduate not knowing where I was going to go. This all developed quickly and it all fell together the way it was supposed to.
“I just kind of ran with it and it’s been nice to have that load lifted off of my shoulders knowing where I’m going to be the next four years.”
Carlson led a young Ripon team to a third-place finish in the TVL and a semifinal round appearance in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV playoffs. The Indians went 20-11 overall.
“She’ll be missed because she rallied my team when they were down,” Uecker said. “She is motiving and inspiring. Those are big, big shoes to fill.”