South Tahoe volleyball star Sofia Hedqvist earns full ride to D1 University of North Dakota
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — South Tahoe volleyball coach Kelly Racca knew Sofia Hedqvist was a special athlete when she was just a sophomore.
Racca would watch the budding star work harder than everybody else and do whatever it took to get better.
“She was dedicated, determined and went to every open gym she could whether it was here or down in Carson City,” Racca said. “She’s even traveled to Sweden to receive upper level training with their national team.”
Hedqvist doesn’t necessarily view her effort to become a better player as hard work.
“Honestly, it’s a love for the game,” Hedqvist said. “I wanted to play year round so it’s what I had to do. It’s just natural.”
All her time and effort, and love, has paid off big time.
Hedqvist signed her National Letter of Intent Tuesday, March 26, to play division I volleyball and pursue her career path at University of North Dakota.
She inked her signature while surrounded by teammates, coaches and family in South Tahoe High School’s strength and conditioning room.
Hedqvist says her new coach in Grand Forks, North Dakota plans to have her redshirt her first year and will pay her expenses through academic scholarships.
The following four years Hedqvist will receive an athletic scholarship covering all costs. Annually, the scholarship is worth about $24,000.
“Signing felt like a sigh of relief,” Hedqvist said. “I’ve been doing a lot of recruiting stuff over the past few months. It feels good to have a perfect fit. I’ve always wanted to play at the highest level. There were some freshmen (volleyball players) at my signing, and it makes me want to be a role model and set an example for them.”
Hedqvist was in high demand from a bunch of colleges over the past few months, but the senior stayed patient until her perfect fit appeared.
And she never imagined her perfect fit would be in the land of ice and snow instead of sea and sand.
Grand Forks is in northeastern North Dakota on the border of Minnesota.
The average low temperature in January is minus-3 degrees with a high of 17, according to the National Weather Service. That part of the country stays frozen for several months out of the year.
But Hedqvist won’t be digging volleyballs on the frozen tundra, she’ll be warm and cozy pounding kills indoors.
She’ll also be studying chemistry, a university strength that offers a five-year master’s program. She said understanding chemistry comes easier for her than other subjects.
“When I was younger, all the winters in Tahoe, I figured I need to go to a school by a beach,” Hedqvist said. “But I’ll get myself a warmer jacket and warmer boots and make it work. When I went on my visit, it felt like home. The other girls and coaches were nice and it seemed like they wanted me. That and my education, it was a perfect fit.”
Hedqvist had several other offers, including a college that would offer the ultimate beach, Hawaii Pacific University in Honolulu.
“She had a ton of offers, everyone was interested in her,” Racca said. “But she was really smart and kept her options open. She was smart, patient and calculated. I’m so proud of her.”
Hedqvist has dual citizenship with her father’s native country, Sweden, and has traveled there the past couple of years to train with their national team.
She has experience traveling and spending time in a foreign country where she can’t speak the language, but North Dakota is still an unknown.
“It’ll be a shock,” Hedqvist said. “I’ll probably realize I’m a lot further away than I thought. But I’ll keep in touch. It’ll be nice to start on a new path.”
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SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Every Friday in August, South Lake Tahoe Ice Arena will host Hockey Night in Tahoe.