By Nick Giannandrea
There is busy, then there is Aubrey Cardoza busy.
By design, the College of the Sequoias sophomore student/athlete doesn't allow herself much idle time.
A product of Tulare's Mission Oak High, where she was a three-sport standout athlete and student with a 3.8 grade-point average, Cardoza arrived at COS in 2017 as a coveted volleyball recruit and as a President's Scholar.
Since becoming a Giant, she's taken on two major position changes while becoming a team leader in volleyball, dabbled in coaching, added a second sport (softball) to her college resume and assumed a campus job all while improving on her GPA from high school to 3.87. Cardoza carries a 4.0 in classes that transfer to a four-year university.
"Keeping busy is my comfort zone," said Cardoza, who will lead the Giants' volleyball team (7-6 overall, 1-2 in the Central Valley Conference) into a 6 p.m. Friday home showdown against perennial state power Fresno City (8-3, 3-0). "I definitely have a trait for that."
Take a typical Tuesday, which Cardoza said is her busiest day.
She arrives at COS for her first class at 7:45 a.m. It ends at 9 a.m., with her next class beginning at 9:10 a.m.
After her second class, Cardoza has a 25 minute break - a "brain break" as she describes it - before her third class at 10:45 a.m. When that class ends at noon, she heads to the school's Welcome Center to spend a couple hours working at her job as a campus ambassador.
Softball, which she decided to play again after spending last spring as a varsity assistant coach at Mt. Whitney, has practice from 2-5 p.m.
Volleyball practice starts at 5 p.m., so she leaves softball a few minutes early to be on time for her sport that is in season. Volleyball runs until 7 p.m., then she heads home, grabs a bite to eat and spends at least 3 hours studying and preparing for the next day.
"Really looking at my future, I want to take advantage of what I have," Cardoza said. "The fact the foundation is willing to pay for my two years here, I have to get done all I can with my time here. I can't let that money go to waste."
Cardoza's work ethic - on and off the court - instantly endured her to COS volleyball coach Kim Rix.
"She's an incredible young lady," Rix said. "I was so excited when she came to us last year, and she exceeded all of our expectations for her.
"Her work ethic is insane to not only do all the things she does, but to be successful at all of those things. Aubrey puts her heart and soul into everything she does."
Because she just wasn't quite as tall as the typical college player at the net, Rix moved the 5-foot-7 Cardoza from hitter, a position she played while earning MVP honors of the East Yosemite League as a high school senior, to defensive specialist.
Then, without an experienced setter following the graduation of Valerie Vargas, Rix turned to Cardoza to fill that role this season. Cardoza hadn't been a full-time setter since the first part of her sophomore season in high school.
Cardoza, who shares the position in a dual-setter lineup with freshman Sydney Guinn of Exeter, has contributed 149 assists through the Giants' first 12 matches.
It's been a pretty unusual transition for Cardoza to go from hitter, to defensive specialist to setter, but one Rix believed she could make.
"In high school you can turn someone into a setter no problem. But as a college sophomore, that's pretty incredible," Rix said of Cardoza, who was unanimously voted by her teammates to be a team captain. "Very few athletes would be able to take on that role. She's become the quarterback of our team. You have to have that leadership mentality to be a setter in the first place, and Aubrey does. Not having (played setter) at the college level could be a huge gamble, but we knew with Aubrey it would pay off because she would work hard and make it happen. We weren't worried about the transition with her."
Cardoza said her versatility while in high school, where she was a four-year varsity player and three-time team captain, has helped make the transition to setter a smooth one.
"My entire volleyball career, they have put me where they needed me," Cardoza said. "I think my experience in having been a hitter and passer has made me a better setter. I know what a hitter wants. I've been in that place. And I know what kind of pass to expect. It's definitely a transition, but I'm very happy I've had those other experiences because it's made me a better setter."
Cardoza, who grew up playing every sport she could while also participating in rodeo, said she hopes to continue her athletic career, be it in volleyball or softball, at a four-year university next year.
Nevada of the Mountain West Conference is Cardoza's dream destination following a recent visit to the Reno-based campus. But wherever she lands, Cardoza plans to go medical school with the goal of becoming a psychiatrist. She would also like to get into coaching eventually.
"I've always had a knack for psychology, and once I got (to COS,) I found it the most interesting of my classes," Cardoza said. "I like how the mind works and the function of the brain. That also plays into setting because I like the mental aspect of it and of sports in general. I like the mindset an athlete has."