What is success without struggle? What is passion without perseverance? Cal Poly junior volleyball player Maia Dvoracek knows all too well what it takes to get from the bottom to the top.
"Find something that pisses you off and makes you want to work harder, and I think you can overcome a lot," Maia exclaimed.
She grew up in small-town Truckee, California, a place where volleyball is kind of an afterthought.
"My world was ski racing," Maia said. "My world wasn't volleyball for the longest time."
Maia began to realize that volleyball was her sport, and she decided to pursue it in college. But the road to a scholarship was a lot harder than her family imagined.
"We were clueless when it came to the whole recruiting process, and how it went," Maia explained. "You know, I couldn't get colleges to answer me back, and I couldn't get coaches to come look at me at tournaments and stuff like that."
Maia joined a club in Sacramento to try and get her name on the map, but she broke her leg one year, didn't make the top squad the next, and had to fight for playing time when she was 17.
"For the longest time, I felt like I worked hard and maybe deserved a little bit more than what I was getting. I think that just put a chip on my shoulder," Maia added.
All it took was one. One chance. One opportunity. One offer. And that's exactly what she got thanks to Jason Borchin.
"Everyone looks at stats and numbers, more of a who a kid is. I went to a practice, and within five minutes of being there, she's diving through chairs to try to play a ball," Borchin said.
Borchin was an assistant coach at Sacramento State at the time. He immediately called his head coach. "I'm watching her and say, 'This is a kid who's going to help our gym. Who knows if she's ever going to play, but she's going to help our gym and make our program better.'"
Borchin ended up taking an assistant job at Cal Poly and convinced the staff to keep Maia's offer. Her decision was a no-brainer.
"To know that I had one person that really believed in me, and was heavily recruiting me, and really wanted me in their gym, I knew that this is where I need to be," Maia said of Borchin.
Maia sat for her first two seasons on a team that won back-to-back Big West Conference titles, and qualified for two-straight NCAA Tournaments.
"I think it was maybe one of the best things for her to sit, learn, watch, and grow as a player and person," Borchin added. "I think that's what made her so ready for this moment."
First year head coach Caroline Walters, who's been with the Mustangs for 11 seasons, could also see a star on the rise.
"For her to come in and have the outcome she has, it's just a testament to her daily work that she put in for the two and a half years before she got her time to shine," Walters said.
Maia rose to the occasion in her junior season and quickly turned from an unknown, to one of the best players in the country. She was second in the Big West in kills, first in the conference and top five in the nation in aces. And when it was all said and done, Maia earned one of college volleyball's greatest honors, AVAC Third Team All-American. She's the first Mustang to be named to an All-American team since 2010.
"We're really the lucky ones that we were able to identify her, and maybe not know what the potential was, but bring out that potential in her and have a wonderful season from her," Walters added.
"I'm just so happy for her and our program," Borchin said. "You know, she's just been a great fit all-around for us."
"To hear the words, 'you're an All-American' come out of Caroline's mouth, I don't even have any words for it right now," Maia said. "As much as it is a win for me, it's a win for every person that got me here."
Maia has one year left with the Cal Poly volleyball program, and as she continues to get ready for her senior season, she'll get the opportunity to try out for the USA National Team in the coming months.