Bill Rozak

Competitive volleyball is a demanding sport.

Jumping, quick sprints, diving, hitting, blocking, and then more jumping.

Playing while at 100 percent physically is hard enough. Playing sick multiplies the difficulty.

Columbia College and 2015 Summerville High graduate Chelsea Wertz recently had that challenge.

The Claim Jumper sophomore flew 1,500 miles across the country, to Kansas, to try and earn a scholarship to a four-year college and found herself sick to her stomach and zapped of energy during her tryout.

“I got really sick that day,” Wertz said.

She gutted out the tryout. And, like famous tennis superstar Serena Williams in 2015 French Open final, who looked ready to pass out or vomit before and after every point before winning, Wertz rose to the challenge.

She showed her skills but was worried after the tryout ended. Worried that she didn’t do enough to impress the coach.

“I was tired at the end and I didn’t want her to think I didn’t work hard, but I’m sure she knew I was sick.” Wertz said. “But apparently I did pretty decent.”

Wertz, the 5-foot-10 19-year old daughter of Tim and Gina Wertz, was offered a scholarship the next day when Bethany College head coach Cheri Lindsay drove her to the airport.

Bethany is a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).

The $16,000 athletic scholarship covers most of the tuition. She received an extra $500 for being a middle hitter/blocker. Bethany paid for everything while Wertz was in Kansas but the plane ticket.

“I’m definitely nervous, I’m so used to knowing everybody,” Wertz said. “And now I’m going to somewhere where I’ll know nobody. But they seem like a family out there.”

Wertz heading to Bethany took shape fast said Columbia head coach Rob Hoyt.

“She met with me and said she’d like to keep playing after Columbia and that she’d go anywhere,” Hoyt said. “And she can definitely play at the next level.”

Within a week, Hoyt sent the Bethany coach information and video of Wertz and shortly after a plane ticket was purchased.

Wertz is the latest Columbia sophomore athlete that has gone onto to a four-year college. Every athlete Hoyt has coached for two years has received opportunities to play at the next level.

And Hoyt and Wertz developed a bond during her time on campus.

“He’s my life coach as well as my volleyball coach,” said Wertz, who was the Columbia captain as a sophomore. “He gives good insight for what will happen in the future and what to expect mentally.”

“She morphed from her freshman to sophomore year,” Hoyt said. “She came in apprehensive and shy and really stepped up and became a leader. She kept the group together and ultimately she’s leaving Columbia as a different person, even better than she was before.”

The Claim Jumpers didn’t win but a handful of games the past couple of seasons, which was challenging for the players and coaches alike, but Wertz was fifth in the Central Valley Conference in solo blocks and said they built relationships, had fun and always gave it 100 percent.

Wertz, who enjoys hiking and backpacking when she can, will head to Kansas in August. She started her summer with two jobs, a waitress at The Peppery and at Schnoog’s Cafe. She recently left the latter to spend more time with her family and get ready before she departs Tuolumne County.

“Volleyball was always in the background and I always hoped it would get me somewhere. Just getting to play and having my parents telling me not to give up, Columbia is definitely what got me to Bethany. It was a really good experience.”