Written by Brooke Killgore
“I think it’s important for women to pursue sports because it’s such a great way to build confidence. When I play my sport, regardless of winning or losing, I’m so grateful to be in my position because I’m surrounded by many powerful women who both serve as amazing role models and lift you up as a person.” These words come from Grace Paulson, a former Las Lomas senior who was extremely well known for her participation on the women’s varsity volleyball team.
Paulson, a graduate of the class of 2020, is now an avid competitor for the University of California, Berkeley, women’s beach volleyball team even throughout the lockdowns of the COVID-19 pandemic. She has spent roughly eight years playing volleyball, starting with inspiration from her father, “My dad used to live in LA and he used to play beach volleyball all the time. He eventually convinced me to play in middle school after my first indoor season, and I’ve been in love with it ever since.” She participated on both Kleos Beach Volleyball Club and NorCal Volleyball Club, as well as several years on the Las Lomas women’s volleyball team where she earned MVP of their varsity team in 2019 and acted as team captain for three years. When asked what type of legacy she might have left behind for future students who come to take her spot, Paulson responded with, “I hope I made it fun to watch. So many people believe women’s sports aren’t as fun to watch because we’re ‘less athletic,’ but that’s just not true… Women’s sports deserve way more viewership, and I encourage people to go out and watch. A lot can come when you leave everything out on the court (or pool, or field) and remain positive despite whatever is happening in the present. Grittiness and positivity are super powerful and so contagious, and I hope I left that legacy with my team.”
Following Paulson’s ideology on women in sports comes Haley Brown, a graduate of the class of 2017. Committed to California State University, Fullerton, Brown led her women’s soccer team to a Big West regular season title, as well as placing herself on the list of school records in assists and points. She discussed the nature of her sport and her beginnings, “I started playing at a young age for fun… I love that it is a team sport. [Soccer] takes hard work and dedication, but I know I can always lean on my teammates for support. All of my teams have felt like families!” She continued on the topic of the role of women in sports, “I feel like playing sports can help women to feel empowered in this world. It often can also be used as a platform for female athletes to speak their mind and advocate for injustices in this country and world…My advice [to upcoming female athletes] would be to never give up on your dreams. You might talk to people who don’t believe in you, but do not let them change how you think about yourself. If you want something, go and get it!”
Another familiar name on the list of female alumni is Linnea Wikander, from the class of 2013. A former Las Lomas student, Wikander attended the University of California, San Diego, to pursue her passion for soccer. She talked about her experiences growing up with the sport, “I started playing soccer when I was 6 years old. I loved being part of a team and working towards something together every day. I loved the competition. Soccer is a beautiful sport and an art, in my opinion. It requires discipline, patience, fitness and teamwork. Looking back, the skills I learned from it, both physical and mental, have made me into who I am today.” Wikander is also a huge advocate for the role of women in sports, discoursing the impacts it has on today’s society, “It’s important to teach women at a young age that they can do anything they put their mind to. Soccer gave me the confidence at a young age to have the drive and determination to accomplish my goals. I am now working in sales in a male-dominated industry and company, and I can confidently say that I have the skills to excel because of my sport.”
As Women’s History Month rolls around in March, the Las Lomas community continuously recognizes the impact our female athletes have on making the world a better place with their perseverance and mindsets. Whether they have moved onto greater things or still find joys here in Walnut Creek, we can come together to acknowledge the bequest they have left behind for younger women to follow in their own footsteps and fulfill their greatness just as they had.
“Take your victories, whatever they may be, cherish them, use them, but don’t settle for them.” – Mia Hamm