South Tahoe’s volleyball player makes Swedish 18U national team
South Tahoe head volleyball coach Kelly Racca says sophomore Sofia Hedqvist is going places.
One place Hedqvist is going is back to Sweden.
The Vikings sophomore recently returned from a trip to her father’s native country where she qualified for the Swedish 18-and-under national team and will return there Thursday, Oct. 12, to compete in the Northern European Championships.
The timing isn’t great with the Vikings battling for a playoff berth, but the opportunity was too big to miss.
“I really didn’t want to miss time, especially being a team captain, and I love this team, but I couldn’t pass up an opportunity like this,” Hedqvist said Monday during practice. “My teammates understand. They’d do the same thing.”
Hedqvist is a dual citizen since her father was born in Sweden. She has lived her entire life in South Lake Tahoe, except for one year in Sweden when she was 2 years old. She has much of her family there and has visited consistently through the years.
The 15-year-old outside hitter traveled with her father overseas last week for a three-day tryout. Seventeen athletes were invited by the national team’s coach and 16 showed up. They all made the team.
The girls practiced twice per day for two hours per session. Hedqvist stayed in one of her teammate’s apartment during the duration of the tryout.
The biggest hurdle for Hedqvist in making the team wasn’t the volleyball, but the language barrier. She speaks a little Swedish, but is not fluent.
“At first I was really lost and didn’t talk much because the language barrier was difficult,” Hedqvist said. “Some of them spoke a little English and I understand a little Swedish, but it’s hard for me to understand everything because they talked so fast. Once I got more comfortable with the girls, and knew what to say, it got really fun.”
Hedqvist will practice with the team for a few days once she returns to Sweden, to help build chemistry, but also to get over the jet lag and nine-hour difference between the two countries.
She’ll then head to Denmark with her team to start competition against countries like Iceland, Finland, Greenland and Denmark. Hedqvist will be gone for eight days.
“I can’t wait to hear her stories when she comes home because I know she’s gonna light it up,” Racca said. “I’m gonna miss her, but like I tell her, high school volleyball is a little blip on her journey in life. Her opportunity to go overseas and play is so much bigger than high school volleyball. I’m excited and happy for her. We’re gonna miss her like crazy but we’ll make it work, that’s what team sports are about. When you’re down a player, we all come together and fill the gaps while she’s gone.”
Hedqvist is one of the youngest players on her team, but she also qualified for a younger Swedish national team, where she will compete in December with girls closer to her age.
Hedqvist, who used to play other sports and has skied down Tahoe slopes since she was 2, has played volleyball since the seventh grade and loves all things about the sport.
“I like that it’s a team sport but also an individual sport as well,” Hedqvist said. “I can be with my teammates, but I’m still doing the things I need to do to be successful as a player. I just love it. It’s super fun.”
Racca and her players will welcome back their co-team captain with open arms after her time overseas.
“We’ll miss her so much, not just her skill but she’s one of our captains, a leader on the court, and she has the ability to shake off mistakes which is invaluable in a team sport,” Racca said. “She knows this team is still here for her and we’ve got her back and we’re cheering her on, just like I know she’ll be cheering us on.”