Christie Carpenter, right, has 105 kills on the season, the second most on the team. (Photo by Jonathan Hardy/BYU Photo)
As the volleyball blitzes over the net and dives to the floor, the 6-foot-1 senior outside hitter flies upward in a leap of victory. Teammates gather, slapping high-fives and hugging over another ‘W’ added to their record.
The outside hitter, sporting No. 14 on her jersey, congratulates the members of her team for a match well played without seeming to realize or even care that her season-high kills and digs had led the team to victory. For Christie Carpenter, a native of Cedar Hills, Utah, the success of the team rather than her personal success takes precedence.
“A team cannot function to its highest ability, to its highest potential, without love and without caring about each other and without genuinely just wanting the best for each other,” Carpenter said.
One could hardly doubt her dedication to BYU women’s volleyball watching her pump up the team’s confidence and energy before a match with cheers and words of support. Nor is it hard for her teammates to get caught up in her genuine love of life as she talks and laughs with them, dancing to the warm-up music prior to a match.
Carpenter bounced back after a knee injury benched her for the first three matches of the 2011 season. Not about to be held back, Carpenter fired off 31 kills during her first week playing after the injury and recorded a career-high hitting percentage in her first match of the season with .417 against Weber State. She went on to break or tie six season records at the Utah Invitational, leading the Cougars to their second tournament win of the season and a win against Utah for the women’s volleyball portion of the Deseret First Duel Trophy.
Setting out to prove themselves in a new conference, Carpenter and the Cougars have their sight set on becoming conference champions and becoming a major threat in the West Coast Conference.
“I’ve always had these personal goals and those have always been important to me,” Carpenter said. “They haven’t necessarily gone out the window, but my mindset has changed to completely team goals. I could care less if I am an All-American or if I’m all-conference or anything. That would be great, but as long as our team is winning and we become the best we can possibly be and go as far as we can, I will be completely satisfied with this season.”
Carpenter provides the leadership the young team needs to realize its capabilities and reach its preseason goals.
“I think she’s a really good leader,” said her mom, Teri Carpenter. “But more than that, she has wanted the freshmen and the underclassmen to really feel welcome and get a good experience. She’s been able to make everybody feel like part of the group.”
As the second youngest of five, Carpenter grew up watching her parents and brother play volleyball. Her parents met on the BYU volleyball courts as members of the men’s and women’s teams and married after what they call “courting on the court.”
Her older brother Cory also played volleyball for BYU as a member of the 2004 team that won the NCAA Championship. He played with current BYU women’s volleyball head coach Shawn Olmstead.
Carpenter didn’t start officially playing volleyball until the eighth grade, when she decided to try out for a team. She had so much natural talent and athleticism, the coaches believed she’d been playing the sport for years, her mother recalled, and put Carpenter on the high school’s freshman team.
“She had no idea where to stand or what to do,” Teri said. “Usually when the other team has the ball and you want to get it back, you say ‘Side out!’ but when we’d have the ball she’d say, ‘Okay, guys, let’s side out!’ and they’d look at her like, ‘What are you talking about?’”
But having that much natural talent didn’t prevent trials along the way. Prior to committing to her first club team, Carpenter made it clear that she wouldn’t play on Sundays, something the coaches agreed to. The team excelled with Carpenter on the court, but when Sunday matches came around the team would lose with her on the bench.
“The club owner benched her for the year,” her mom said. “She had parents angry with her. The coach went back on his word. She just felt like here she’d made a good decision and she was being punished for it.”
When Club Utah recruited Carpenter, she almost didn’t want to agree because of her past club experience. But this time the coaches were understanding. The team did well, even on Sundays when Carpenter didn’t play. Carpenter helped the team to two national championships that year.
“It started out as a very hard thing, but I think she was blessed in the end,” her mom said.
Carpenter says she’s only made it through the challenges with the help of people she calls her “guardian angels.”
“There are certain people in my life that I call my guardian angels that come to me at times in my life when I most need them,” Carpenter said, getting emotional. “There’s this old man, I have no idea where he came from. His name is Grant, I call him Grandpa Grant, and he came to one of my high school volleyball games and just started talking to me. He kept up on all my stats. Then he started coming to all my BYU matches and, even though it’s hard for him to move around, he would always just come and make me feel like a million bucks.”
She also said her family, especially Cory, have been guardian angels by pushing her to be the best she could be. She counts BYU Athletic Director Tom Holmoe on that list as well because he saw beyond the unconfident freshman and helped her realize her potential as a BYU volleyball player.
After practically growing up in BYU’s Smith Fieldhouse, becoming a Cougar seemed the natural choice for Carpenter when it came time to choose a university.
“This was like my home away from home before I even came to school here,” she said. “My dad works here, so I would come and be with him around campus a lot. I just loved the atmosphere here and the people and the feel just made me fall in love with it. I didn’t want to go anywhere else. I got letters from other schools and I would tell my mom, ‘Just put them away. I don’t even want to look at them. I just want to go to BYU.’ That’s how it always was.”
As an exercise and wellness major, Carpenter hopes to use her passion for eating healthy and being active to bless others’ lives.
“My mom raised us on super healthy food,” Carpenter said. “We always had healthy food in the house. And I’ve always loved to exercise. It’s just kind of weird, because whenever we do conditioning or anything, I’m pumped! And I love helping other people do the same.”
Carpenter will also graduate with a minor in business. After finishing her degree in December, one option she’s thought about for a career is corporate wellness to help companies keep their employees healthy. She said she also might start her own wellness company. In addition to her career goals, Carpenter wants to run marathons, travel, serve a church mission and get married.