Alissa Chasten kneels low to the court, one knee barely touching the freshly waxed surface, the other knee poised as if ready to leap into the air. Her arms hang close to her long legs, and her fingers pulse back and forth in anticipation. Two long braids fall free from her tight bun and reflect in the floor below.
Her eyes follow the volleyball across the net, and nothing else seems to matter. Her head and legs lift in one motion as the ball falls closer; her arms swing in front of her and – SMACK! She sends the ball back to her opponent faster than it had come: an ace across the court.
Chasten smiles and yells, “Good run!” to the player who missed returning her hit. The two women walk to the net and high five. It’s only a practice; no one won or lost, but the intensity and focus in Chasten’s movements are as unmistakable as if she had been playing a championship game.
Chasten, a Mills freshwoman, is known for her intensity on the court and in the classroom. Throughout Chasten’s dual athletic and academic career, she has managed to maintain top grades and participate wholeheartedly in her favorite sport: volleyball, where she now plays as a middle blocker at Mills.
Chasten is also known for her humor and loyalty. Her abilities have won her multiple awards in school and sports, and her enthusiastic sense of humor and commitment to caring for others have won her even more friends and fans.
Chasten was born on November 24, 1988, in Sacramento, Calif. to parents Gerald and Alecia. Chasten spent her childhood living in Sacramento with her parents and her younger siblings, Brittney and Gerald III. During her summer breaks from school, Chasten and her family would travel to Maryland and North Carolina to see her father’s side of the family. Chasten calls Maryland her “second home” and says she loves the memories she has of her childhood.
The summer before her freshman year of high school, when Chasten was 13, she began playing volleyball.
“It looked fun,” said Chasten, “and I wanted to play a sport to get out of the house.”
Chasten signed up for volleyball at Highlands High in Sacramento during her first year of high school. On the freshman team, Chasten won her school’s Scholar Athlete Award for having the highest GPA of any student on her team.
Chasten moved up to Highlands’ junior varsity volleyball team in her sophomore year and won the Scholar Athlete Award for the second year in a row.
During Chasten’s junior and senior years of high school, she played on Highlands’ varsity volleyball team. Her junior year, she won multiple athletic awards, including a Varsity letter, Most Valuable Player and All Conference Player, an honor granted by a panel of coaches based on a player’s experience, statistics and sportsmanship.
“I was so surprised,” Chasten said about her All Conference Award. “I had no idea I would win. [The coaches] announced the winners at the Conference Athletic Banquet. I was just a junior, and I was expecting a senior to win.”
Chasten finished her senior year of high school with no shortage of recognition for her athletic and academic achievements. Senior year brought Chasten the title Conference Player of her volleyball league and an award called the Scholar LAMP, an honor given to Chasten based on four years of success in both athletics and academics.
Chasten came to Mills in Fall 2006 as a freshwoman and, after only two semesters, has become a well-known athlete on campus.
At first, Chasten’s reasons for choosing to come to Mills were academic; she was impressed by the diversity of classes offered at Mills and had plans to study International Relations and cross-register at UC Berkeley.
But Chasten knew that she couldn’t give up volleyball in college. She joined the Mills team within days of her arrival and immediately knew she had made the right choice.
“What are my favorite things about Mills? I definitely like the people here, and I like the food, seriously, I do. I like the diversity of the classes and the study abroad options. And last but not least, I love the volleyball team!”
Although the team won only one game last season, Chasten had nothing but good things to say about her two semesters of volleyball.
Chasten hopes to play volleyball all four of her undergraduate years. She said she could never completely give up the sport.
“I couldn’t just quit; I think I would go crazy! The only reason I could see myself not playing is if it were to conflict with my academics, like in my junior and senior years when I’ll have a heavy course load . but I would still be at every game, cheering them on.”
Chasten’s team members and friends agree that she is an important part of the team.
Cristin Allen, who plays the position opposite of Chasten on the Mills volleyball team, said, “[Chasten] is always striving to do better, to improve herself for the team. She plays for the team, not just for herself.”
“I play [the position] opposite of [Chasten], and we hit different kinds of sets,” said Allen, “but even from across the court we are always communicating and interacting with each other . Chasten is a really unique middle, but she has high stats. That means she has to be twice as good as any middle blocker she plays against.”
In the fall, Chasten will return to Mills and the Mills volleyball team. She will be living on campus in the Athletics theme hall in Mary Morse. She doesn’t know what she’ll be doing 10 years from now but says her ultimate goal is to simply enjoy life.