Pitman High School graduate Lindsey Vander Weide was a force to be reckoned with during her time on the court with the Pride, and now the Turlock native is making waves in the professional volleyball world overseas following a successful collegiate career.
Vander Weide graduated from PHS in 2015 as a four-year varsity starter who helped lead the team to four Central California Conference championships, a Sac-Joaquin Section championship, a Northern California championship and the school’s first-ever appearance in the Division I State finals match. She recently returned home from her second season of professional volleyball in Europe and caught the Journal up to speed on her whirlwind of a career so far.
“After my sophomore year of college, I knew I wanted to play for as long as I could,” Vander Weide said. “I realized I was good enough at it to continue after college, so I thought I might as well continue to play until my body says I can’t anymore.”
As if Vander Weide’s record as a high schooler wasn’t enough, she also earned a slew of accolades during her four years with the Pride, including first-team CCC honors from 2012 to 2014, CCC defensive player of the year in 2012 and CCC MVP in both 2013 and 2014, to name a few.
It’s no surprise that Vander Weide was heavily recruited in high school, ultimately signing on to play women’s volleyball at the University of Oregon from 2015 to 2018. While there, she became only the second freshman in Oregon history to be named to the All-Pac-12 Team.
At Oregon, the recognition continued for the 6-foot-3 outside hitter. She’s a three-time Pac-12 All-Academic Honorable Mention, three-time All-Pac-12 player, 2017 PrepVolleyball All-America Honorable Mention, two-time AVCA Third-Team All-American and Two-Time AVCA Pacific North All-Region player. Her best year came as a senior, where she averaged career-highs of 4.04 points, 3.51 kills and 2.98 digs per set.
Vander Weide left her mark on the University of Oregon’s record books, becoming only the fifth player in program history to have 1,000-plus kills and digs. She closed her Oregon career at No. 4 all-time in points (1,687), No. 5 in total attacks (3,985), No. 6 in both kills (1,447) and digs (1,242) and No. 9 in service aces (108).
After going to the state championship as a senior in high school, Vander Weide’s senior year in college ended in similar fashion with the Ducks making it all the way into the Elite 8 of the 2018 NCAA Tournament.
“My time at Oregon was a great experience. It’s really sad to end a season, even in high school and especially in college,” Vander Weide said. “The fact that we went that far was the perfect cherry on top, and the same thing goes for when I was in high school. If you’re going to end the season, you have to try and go the furthest you can.”
After graduating from Oregon with a degree in journalism, Vander Weide was thrust into the high-profile world of professional sports and immediately hired an agent to handle the incoming offers she was receiving to play on volleyball teams in different countries.
While the United States is just dipping its toes into professional volleyball and recently started up its first player-led, grassroots league, Vander Weide opted to play for a team in France called VB Nantes during her first pro season in 2019.
“Volleyball is definitely more popular and bigger overseas, and the money is much better,” Vander Weide said. “If the American league turns into something better and ends up how it is in Europe, I would much rather stay in America because it’s difficult living overseas for nine months.”
Vander Weide, now 23 years old, has yet to complete a professional season due to the coronavirus pandemic. Her season with VB Nantes was cut short when COVID first shut down the world last spring, and her most-recent season with Békéscsabai Röplabda SE out of Hungary came to an early end when a number of her teammates contracted the virus just as the squad was preparing to play in the finals.
During both seasons, Vander Weide was on the top team in each country’s A1 league, which is the highest division in professional volleyball.
“We were in the playoffs this year and last year the team I was on was going to either be No. 1 or No. 2,” she said. “It sucked not being able to really say we were first in the league because the season was cancelled.”
When her first professional season in France was cancelled last year, Vander Weide returned home thinking it was a short, two-week break. She never returned (some of her belongings are still in France) and ultimately moved on to play in Hungary this past season. The professional volleyball season starts when players arrive to practice in August and runs through late April or early May.
On both teams, Vander Weide has been one of the only Americans on the team. Living and playing in countries where English isn’t the primary language has its difficulties, she said, but most teams make an effort to speak in English if there’s an American on the team.
The experience has allowed her to experience a multitude of different cultures and not just that of the country she’s playing in, she added, thanks to the roster’s diversity with players from all over the world.
“Sometimes the team huddles aren’t in English, but you get used to it after a little bit. It’s definitely weird at first, but it’s exposed me to so many other cultures, not just French or Hungarian,” Vander Weide said.
Now that she’s home again, Vander Weide has her sights set on next season. She hopes to play in the Korean professional volleyball league where the sport is extremely popular, and is hoping to hear her name called during the league's draft on April 28.
Most volleyball players who share her position play into their late 20s, Vander Weide shared. She's sure she’d like to continue playing for a bit longer and is listening to her body as her career continues. When she does eventually hang up her jersey, she’d like to utilize her journalism degree and become a sports commentator — preferably for volleyball.
“I feel like I want to play volleyball as long as I can. I don’t know how long I can live overseas, but I felt good about how I played this season and how my body felt...I know I want to play for at least a couple more years,” Vander Weide said. “The goal is to get better and move up to better, higher-paying teams each year.”