2010-02-12 / Health & Wellness

Vance takes his shot overseas

By Jeffrey Dransfeldt jdransfeldt@theacorn.com

A HIT IN PUERTO RICO—Eric Vance, center, plays professional volleyball  for  the Guaynabo Mets of  the Puerto Rico Superior League. The 23-year-old Vance, a graduate of Camarillo High, was an AVCA First Team All-American as an outside hitter  for Cal State Northridge’s men’s volleyball team. A HIT IN PUERTO RICO—Eric Vance, center, plays professional volleyball for the Guaynabo Mets of the Puerto Rico Superior League. The 23-year-old Vance, a graduate of Camarillo High, was an AVCA First Team All-American as an outside hitter for Cal State Northridge’s men’s volleyball team. Eric Vance had a few ideas about what his future might hold after ending his volleyball career at California State University Northridge.

He considered training with the U.S. National Team or using his economics degree to pursue a job. A professional career in a foreign country never really occurred to him.

But when he received an email asking if he wanted to play professional volleyball in Puerto Rico, Vance jumped at the opportunity. The team gave him a salary and a small stipend for living expenses. He had to pay for only food and gas.

“It . . . turned out I had an offer to make pretty good money in a slow economy . . . where it’s pretty tough to find jobs, so I decided to give it a shot,” Vance said in a recent interview.

The 23-year-old, who graduated from Camarillo High in 2004, has spent the last five months playing volleyball for the Guaynabo Mets of the Puerto Rico National Superior League.

His team made it to the finals, but lost to Plataneros de Corozal in the recent league championship game.

Vance is recovering from a strenuous schedule that had him playing matches, practicing or working out nearly nonstop for the past five months.

“They love volleyball here. I played in front of a crowd of close to 5,500,” he said.

The transition to professional volleyball has been a learning experience for Vance.

The season began in mid-October, but with Guaynabo serious about competing for a championship, the team asked Vance to come in September and spend a month practicing and working out.

Vance estimated he played more than 40 matches over the four-month season, including the month of playoffs.

He managed to avoid major injuries, but suffered the normal wear and tear, including tendonitis in his right shoulder. It’s a condition that goes away with rest, he said.

“I played the most volleyball I ever played in my career in a span of three months. It’s pretty taxing on the body.”

The cultural adjustment wasn’t as great as if he’d gone overseas to begin his professional career.

“As a U.S. territory, (Puerto Rico has) a lot of U.S. influence,” Vance said. “Where I live, about 90 percent of the people speak some English or at least understand it, so I didn’t have to completely learn Spanish to get around.”

Most of his teammates had learned English growing up, at college in the U.S. or through playing professional volleyball.

Vance is considering what he wants to do next.

He could join a professional league already in progress in Asia or Europe or train with the U.S. National Team.

Playing professional volleyball for a living is exciting, he said, but there are plenty of challenges involved. Professional volleyball is driven more by results, whereas high school and college ball were about individual improvement and team play.

“You love playing (pro ball), but there’s a lot of pressure that goes in with it,” Vance said. “There’s a lot of time (involved). It’s more than just playing. It’s really a full-time job.”

He graduated from CSUN last year, where he was a standout athlete.

A First-Team AVCA AllAmerican, Vance set the school single-season record in aces with 57. He led CSUN his senior season with 625 kills and 5.58 kills per game. He was among the topthree players nationally in kills and aces.

Vance’s last two seasons ended in the semifinals of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Tournament.

“The only sad part for me is we had two really great years that ended short of a national championship, and that’s what we were working for the whole time I was there,” Vance said.

Vance sits fifth in Northridge history with 1,668 kills. He was third in attempts with 3,606 and second all-time in aces with 181.

“Eric was phenomenal,” Northridge coach Jeff Campbell said.

“He hit .377 as a passing outside, which is incredible. He was our big go-to guy, and he worked his butt off for the past five years in this program, and it definitely paid off.”

Return to top