Oct. 8, 2009

By Jennifer Gunnels
Special to NCAA.com


University of Miami (Florida) senior Cassie Loessberg may be restricted to the back row as the libero on the volleyball team, but she isn't afraid of the front lines.
 
The school record-holder for career digs is also a reservist in the United States Marine Corps. Inspired by an extensive family history of military service, Loessberg completed boot camp in the summer of 2008 and signed her reserve contract with the Marine Corps on May 24.

"The military has always been a big part of me and my family; it's something I've always wanted to do," Loessberg said. "For as long as I can remember, I've always wanted to be a Marine."

Loessberg travels more than 200 miles to Orlando one weekend a month during the offseason to serve with her unit, and makes up the time that she misses during the fall due to her obligations with the volleyball team.

"I have to be 100-percent committed to the Marine Corps and 100-percent committed to volleyball. Obviously I can't be in two places at once, and my staff sergeants are very understanding of my commitment to volleyball," Loessberg said.

As a motor transport operator with the Marine Corps, Loessberg is responsible for operating and maintaining tactical vehicles. Currently holding the rank of E-3 Lance Corporal, Loessberg's friends have nicknamed her "Lance Coolie Loessberg." After completing two weeks of advanced training with the Marine Corps last summer, Loessberg turned her attention back to the court for her final season with the Hurricanes.

"Cassie is definitely a leader," said Miami (Fla.) head coach Nicole Lantagne Welch. "She is a captain this year and was chosen by her teammates. She has a great rapport with her teammates, and she pushes them to be better."

The Sacramento, Calif. native has been playing volleyball since grade school and was recruited by Lantagne Welch after capturing the coach's attention at a tournament in Nevada.

"I loved the idea of starting fresh and taking on a completely new challenge," Loessberg said of enrolling at Miami (Fla.). "When I got the letter from Miami that they were interested in me, I thought, 'Yes, that's where I want to go.'"

Loessberg has certainly made her mark on the university's program, recently becoming Miami's all-time leader in career digs. Already the school record holder for digs in 3-, 4- and 5-set matches, Loessberg is also etching her name into Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) history. Loessberg has been climbing the ACC charts for career digs, recently surpassing Lantagne Welch's mark of 1,668 digs set during her years at the University of Maryland to move into 11th place all-time with 1,704. With 15 regular-season matches remaining, Loessberg is likely to finish her career among the ACC's top five all-time.

"Cassie is a great competitor," Lantagne Welch said. "She gives 100-percent effort at practice and at games, and is driven to be the best."

Loessberg says the skills she has learned with the military translate well to her role on the court.

"I came back from recruit training a whole new person," Loessberg said. "It taught me how to stay mentally sharp and find motivation within myself every single day.  It really taught me a lot of new leadership skills, especially how to adapt my leadership style to the group that I'm leading, and as a captain on the team this year, that's something that has really helped me."

Lantagne Welch agreed that Loessberg has grown since joining the Marine Corps.

"As her role with the Marines has increased, she has become a more disciplined teammate and player," Lantagne Welch said. "I think her service with the Marines has helped her to mature more quickly than other students who might not have that experience."

As Loessberg closes in on the final chapter of her career as a student-athlete, her sights are set on one final goal: a trip to the NCAA Division I Women's Volleyball Championship.

"I'd love to look back and say that our team made it to the NCAA tournament my senior season," Loessberg said. "I think that's something I would take with me for the rest of my life."

Regardless of the season's outcome, Loessberg knows that her days as a leader are far from over. After she graduates in May with a degree in Criminology, Loessberg plans to enroll in Officer Candidate School and hopes to eventually become a fighter pilot.

"As long as the Marine Corps needs me, I hope to make a career out of serving my country," Loessberg said.