The setter role in volleyball takes on a handful of duties; the main facilitator in an offense, responsible for constant communication and arrangement. It’s a lot to ask in one player, especially for a freshman.
For most first-year players, it takes a few years to acclimate to the collegiate speed and build chemistry with new teammates, but Arizona State’s Ella Snyder isn’t your typical freshman.
Snyder has started every match thus far in 2021 for the Sun Devils despite just coming into the program from Mira Costa High School in Manhattan Beach, Calif.
One of the biggest reasons Sanja Tomasevic and her staff has trusted Snyder in the important position is that she possesses certain qualities that simply can’t be taught.
“Ella is the perfect balance of being hungry and aggressive while being calm under pressure at the same time,” Arizona State associate head coach Carlos Moreno said. “That’s really hard to find. It’s something you can’t teach. It’s not usual. We expect the freshmen to take a long time to adjust and adapt. Ella picked it up really, really fast.”
Arizona State’s top two assist leaders from 2019, setters Callie Jones and Nicole Peterson graduated. That left open a position battle to fill the vacancy headed into the fall. Snyder saw the opportunity and capitalized on it.
“When I committed, I knew the two senior setters were graduating. I knew who my competition would be for the position and what I needed to do to get some playing time,” Snyder said. “In the fall, every position was up for grabs and you just had to prove yourself. I had to do a lot to get where I am right now and obviously it paid off. But I’m not done and I need to continue to get better for my team.”
An easy way to standout to any coach is to simply outwork everyone else. According to Moreno, Snyder has that first one in and last one out approach.
She’s the typical example of an athlete that understands that the best one to make an impact is the moments when no one is watching you.
“She’s by far the hardest worker in the gym,” Moreno said. “She arrives early and she stays late. She wants to do extra all the time, film, rehab, eats well, straight A student. She’s the whole package. On top of that, she’s just a good volleyball player.”
Snyder is just one piece of a very young, developing group in Tempe. Iman Isanovic leads the team in kills as a sophomore, freshman Marta Levinska doesn’t trail too far behind in that category.
Arizona State’s leaders in digs and blocks, Annika Larson and Kennedi Boyd, are both sophomores. Snyder’s development comes easier to her when she knows she’s growing alongside her teammates.
“Being a young team is actually an awesome thing. To have so much to learn about each other, work on together,” Snyder said. “We are starting from scratch and we are only getting better. There’s not really a flatline and that’s really cool to see in the gym. We are all super hungry...It also shows a lot about the coaches and them being patient with us. It’s coming together right now.”
As Moreno mentioned, what Snyder is doing this season is atypical. It’s far from easy, and she knows that. Snyder feels like she’s in a great place to grow and take the challenge head-on.
“It’s really hard to lead a team as a freshman setter,” Snyder said. “The girls are amazing, communicating with me and not getting frustrated with me, showing patience. Having a fall season was super crucial for me. Getting to know the hitters, their tendencies and work around them. Every single day I try to be the best leader that I can be and help them out as well. It’s a team game, so it goes two ways...For me, it’s a really fun challenge that I get to do.”