South Tahoe volleyball star Hedqvist to play for national team in fall | TahoeDailyTribune.com

South Tahoe volleyball star Hedqvist to play for national team in fall

South Tahoe's Sofia Hedqvist goes on the attack last season.

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Sofia Hedqvist wants to play at the highest-level.

The South Tahoe senior also would like to connect with her Swedish culture.

At the same time, she wanted to play her final year with her longtime Vikings teammates and celebrate senior day.

Something had to give. She had a tough decision to make. But ultimately, opportunity outweighed emotions.

Hedqvist will travel across the ocean to play for the Swedish national team this fall before returning for the second semester to graduate with her senior class. She will miss the Vikings' volleyball season.

"It's gonna be really hard," Hedqvist said. "I always imagined that my senior year would be the best one. Senior night has always been emotional for me and I wasn't even the one graduating. But I'll be watching all the games. I'll be FaceTiming with my mom all the time. Everybody has been so supportive. I'm gonna miss them a lot."

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Hedqvist's teammates are going to miss running onto the court with her, especially the seniors. But they also know it's the right move.

"It's definitely something that's really upsetting," said close friend and senior teammate Layne Hembree. "I might go and visit her and watch one of her games, but I don't know yet. I'm not looking forward to playing without her, but I'm really proud of her. She's an amazing volleyball player and she's following her dreams and that's all a best friend can ask for."

"It was easy to play with her because she knows what she's doing," said senior Hailey Naccarato, who will change roles from libero to outside hitter. "It's definitely a lot more fun because she has fun with it and helps everybody else to have fun. She's super excited when she plays well and it gets us all in good moods."

Hedqvist went to Sweden, her father's native country, one year ago and qualified for the 18-and-under team. The co-team captain left the Vikings volleyball team last October to play for Sweden in the Northern European Championships and had a blast playing the game at a higher level.

She has a large family contingent in Sweden and will stay with her grandma during her few months there.

"Half of my family is over there and I just kinda want to re-connect with them," Hedqvist said. "A lot of it is for the cultural experience, but also, I really wanna play high-level volleyball and that's great high-level training. I had so much fun playing with the national team before so it will give me that much more opportunity to do that."

Hedqvist is on a path that could lead to the Olympics. But she's not concerned with that and says it's doubtful her career will go there. It's also a commitment she's not sure she wants to make. The 4.6-grade point average student, who has just a couple of classes she needs to take to graduate, is keeping her options open.

"We'll see where life goes, but I wanna play as long as I can," Hedqvist said. "It could lead to the Olympics, but it's just such a higher level and I'd probably have to commit my life to playing volleyball and I'm not sure if I'm ready to do that."

Taking a 6-foot tall, dynamic athlete who has devastating hitting ability out of the South Tahoe lineup is going to hurt.

Vikings head coach Kelly Racca said her team will have to make some adjustments and some players will have the opportunity to step up and take on larger roles.

"I'm excited to see who steps up and how much they will," Racca said. "I know I've got some girls who are hungry and looking forward to the challenge. But Sofia is amazing. She's exciting. She's a great role model. She's exactly what I would want in every player. I'm gonna miss her. Her teammates are gonna miss her, but we all know this is what's best for her and her future. She can receive training that she won't get here, which can set her up for a future in volleyball if that's what she wants."

"I honestly want to thank Racca," Hedqvist said. "I'm upset I won't be here, she's upset that I won't be here, but she is being one of the most supportive people and I totally appreciate that."