Like so many other student-athletes at Vanguard University, Stephanie Flores took an unusual route to the VU Volleyball program. As a senior at Yucaipa High School in 2011, the high school volleyball star had her sights set on a high profile program.
“Erin Leja, the Lions’ Head Volleyball Coach,was an assistant for my club team, and kept talking about Vanguard to me,” said Flores, now a sophomore for the Lions. “I knew it was in a good location, so I took a chance.”
The chance has paid off in many ways for the 6-1 middle blocker. Flores has played in all 24 matches for the Lions in 2013, starting 20 of them. Through the first 23 contests, Flores had posted 94 kills and totaled 44 blocks, near the top of the leaders for NAIA’s tenth-ranked squad. On November 5, Flores had a huge block and kill in the fifth and deciding set in an upset of No.2 Concordia.
It is obvious that Flores’ talent has helped the VU Volleyball program continue to roll on the volleyball court, but what is most encouraging is the growth Flores has experienced away from the gym.
In addition to her play on the court for the Lions, Stephanie boasts a 3.7 GPA in the classroom, and is pursuing a degree in Kinesiology. Flores is actively involved in BAM (Beyond Athletic Ministries), a Bible study for athletes that meets twice a month, and was a part of the Vanguard Athletics mission trip to Australia in the summer of 2013.
“The Christian aspect of Vanguard was very new to me,” Flores admitted. “But coming to Vanguard has given me more than I could have ever expected. I gave my life to Jesus my freshman year, and I have learned to walk life with God on and off the court, confiding in Him. I now live for something other than myself and have grown to trust him with my life.”
After serving with her team on the mission trip, Flores decided to step up and lead her fellow student athletes as a LION (Leader Influencing Our Nation’s Sports) in the Champion of Character class at Vanguard, taught by Athletic Director Bob Wilson. The student-leaders help facilitate small groups with various coaches and new student-athletes within the athletic department, and conversations revolve around Gold Pride and the five character values that the NAIA and Vanguard University promote.
“I love being a Lion and being able to walk with other athletes and teach them what Gold Pride is all about,” Flores stated. “As a peer, we get to walk with them and mentor them. It’s awesome.”
Though she is only scratching the surface of her time at Vanguard, Flores has clearly been impacted by her first 15 months at VU.
“I am grateful to be a part of Vanguard athletics and the volleyball program,” Flores said. “This team and this athletic program are a family. The coaches invest in the student-athletes every day, even if they don’t coach your sport. I know that is rare, and I am very thankful to be a part of such a special place.”