It‚Äôs not necessarily surprising to see Blossom Sato continue her career in volleyball.
Her mother won a bronze medal in the Olympics. Two uncles competed in the Olympic Games in the sport. One cousin has spent time on the men‚Äôs team at Long Beach State. Another is on the roster at Cal State Northridge. A third plays at Palos Verdes Peninsula High School.
But as the recent Santa Monica High School graduate prepares for her first season at Mississippi State, she‚Äôs excited to chart her own course on the court.
“I‚Äôve been around volleyball my whole life,” she said. “It‚Äôs always been a family sport. … Playing college volleyball has always been a goal and I can‚Äôt wait to experience it.”
Sato was drawn to the Starkville campus by its Division I sports, volleyball coaching staff and academic opportunities. She plans to study kinesiology and pursue a career in physical therapy.
She has a chance to take part in a major turnaround at Mississippi State, which won just two league matches as part of a woeful 7-26 campaign last year under then-coach Jenny Hazelwood.
Sato will begin her collegiate career under the direction of new head coach David McFatrich, who was selected in January to lead the Bulldogs. He was previously the head coach at Central Arkansas.
“Blossom provides some immediate help at the setter position for us,” McFatrich said in a release. “She‚Äôs a good defensive player and very good at moving the ball around. Blossom provides yet another player that helps us with our ball control. She‚Äôs just a solid setter and we‚Äôre excited to get her here at Mississippi State.”
Sato is part of a 17-player roster that includes two other California standouts in Laguna Niguel product hitter Chelsea Duhs and Cerritos alumna Bali Leffall-Young.
Sato figures to learn the nuances of the college game by training alongside senior Shelby Anderton, a returning starter at setter who tallied 750 assists last year and paced the team in assists in 23 of its 33 matches.
Sato proved to be the Vikings‚Äô on-court leader throughout her prep career, earning the Ocean League‚Äôs most valuable player award twice and receiving the most outstanding player honor in 2014. She led the conference in assists three times and also served as a team captain three times.
This past season, Sato earned all-CIF honors in Division 3AA. The senior racked up 456 assists, 66 digs, 46 kills and 21 total blocks as she led the Vikings to the quarterfinals of the Southern Section playoffs.
As a sophomore in 2012, Sato was named the Ocean League‚Äôs most valuable player after helping the Vikings capture a conference crown. The squad reached the semifinals of the division playoffs that year, and Sato made the all-CIF team in 3AA.
“Playing at Samo provided me with the skills to become a true student-athlete,” she said. “I learned how to manage my time between practices, schoolwork and other activities.
“I loved being around so many supportive role models. It was really a great environment to have grown up in and I wouldn‚Äôt have gotten to where I am now without those people.”
Mississippi State opens its season Aug. 28-29, when it hosts the Bulldog Invitational in Starkville. The team is scheduled to face defending national champion Penn State in tournament play Sept. 12 and begin its conference slate Sept. 23 with a road match against Alabama.
Contact Jeff Goodman at 310-573-8351, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter.