The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

Club, practice squad, now D-II volleyball player: Seth O’Brien’s climb up the ladder

WSU club volleyball player ro play in Chicago while pursuing masters in Psychology

Three years ago, Seth O’Brien could not hit a volleyball properly. Now, he is an NCVF DIAAA National Champion with the Washington State University men’s club volleyball team and is going to Roosevelt University in Chicago to play Division II volleyball while earning his master’s.

O’Brien, a senior psychology major, first joined the WSU men’s club volleyball team his sophomore year despite having never previously played the sport. 

His first time playing volleyball came from the suggestion of his roommate Gunner Miller, senior broadcast news major. Miller convinced him to give it a try as he said he thought he would be a natural given his 6-foot, 4-inch frame and long wingspan. 

“When we started, he could barely hit the ball. But, I knew once he could get control, he would be a great volleyball player,” Miller said. 

After improving over some practices and intramural games and having an immediate passion for the sport, O’Brien said he met players on the club team who convinced him to come out for an open tryout. 

Since he still lacked a lot of technical sound, he said his raw talent earned him a spot on the team. Playing exclusively players above his skill level forced him to quickly adapt and learn how to play better. 

When he joined the team, he said he learned about potential opportunities to play for the women’s volleyball practice team, helping train the likes of Magda Jehlárová, Pia Timmer and Katy Ryan in practice for their eventual Sweet 16 NCAA Tournament run in 2023. 

O’Brien said he got the chance to be on the practice team heading into his junior year, something he kept doing in the recent 2023 season. 

Mainly playing against, and sometimes alongside, a team that ranked No. 4 nationally, he said he had the opportunity to learn how to become a better player himself by observing the footwork and approach of players like Jehlárová, one of the best middle blockers in the country. 

While he never accomplished his personal goal of blocking Jehlárová, another block serves as one of his favorite memories as a volleyball player thus far. 

“It probably would have to be blocking Katy Ryan. We scrimmage them, and of course, they beat us, but being able to block someone so tall and talented was amazing,” he said. 

O’Brien said he has taken the experience of practicing with the women’s team and it has already paid dividends, something that had not been a surprise to people like Miller, who originally recruited him to play volleyball.

Despite quitting his high school basketball and baseball teams due to disliking the practice schedules, volleyball had been different. O’Brien said he started looking forward to playing and despite not succeeding immediately, found joy in learning to be a better player. 

“He’s always been open to criticism, he takes advice very well and I think that’s going to continue to make him a better player,” Miller said. 

Three years later and after a roller coaster club season, the team had one last tournament: the 2024 NCVF Nationals.

After dropping the first match they played, O’Brien said his team won their next nine matches and in doing so, took home the NCVF DIAAA National Championship. That tournament win was the first of his playing career and it came in his last opportunity as a Coug.

“All three years [I’ve played] we haven’t won a tournament, but we’ve always come close,” O’Brien said. “So finally being able to get not only a win, but the type of win that it was, it felt ecstatic, you know. Even more so that it was my final time playing for Wazzu.” 

Originally, that tournament was supposed to be the end of his short, but rather successful, playing career. But, in an open gym for volleyball players in Seattle over winter break, he said a coach came up to him and suggested sending his film out to D-II coaches across the country.

While focusing on finding a program that would both serve his desire to do his desired master’s program and potentially continue his playing career, he landed on Roosevelt University.

At Roosevelt, he will get the opportunity to continue playing while studying to achieve his dream of becoming a pediatric clinical psychologist, following in his mom’s footsteps.

O’Brien said he is equally fascinated by how the human brain functions as well as the passion to have a meaningful impact on other people’s lives. Already, the content he is learning in his classes is being used for his volleyball career.

This season, the club volleyball team utilized an “85% mentality,” where they tried to avoid the potential emotional rollercoaster that comes from winning and losing in sports. O’Brien said that with using development theories and motivational techniques learned in his classes, the team saw more success. 

As he graduates from WSU in May and continues his education and volleyball career at Roosevelt, O’Brien said accomplishing his personal goal of making the practice team and winning nationals has been a dream come true, despite being a dream that had only been formed three years ago.

“They say Pullman is what you make of it and that’s exactly what’s happened for me. I’ve met a lot of people here over my years, but this group of guys on the club volleyball team has been the people that I’ve been closest with and its completely shaped my WSU experience,” he said.

More to Discover
About the Contributor
BRANDON WILLMAN, Multimedia editor
Brandon Willman is a junior multimedia journalism student from Vancouver, Washington. He started working as a sportswriter for the Daily Evergreen in Fall 2022 and worked as copy editor in spring 2023. Brandon was elected to be the Editor-in-chief starting in summer 2023 and served in the position from May 2023 to February 2024 before transitioning to the role of multimedia editor. He enjoys watching sports, backpacking, and watching horror movies.