Marissa Plaza playing volleyball
Plaza ’23
“Marissa fits in well with our positive team culture, and she works hard every day to better herself and the players around her.” —Coach Forge
The Plymouth State Volleyball Team got off to one of the best starts in program history this year, securing homecourt advantage in the playoffs after acing the regular season with a 19–0 start. Marissa Plaza ’23, a transfer student and newcomer to the East Coast, is among the reasons for this year’s success.

Plaza is a libero, a back-row defensive specialist who wears a different color jersey then other team members and never serves or rotates to the front line. She’s made a new home for herself, with a new team and new school, in a quite different part of the country.

Plaza transferred to Plymouth State after two years at American River College, a community college not far from hometown of Folsom, CA. Wanting to complete a bachelor’s program, she contacted colleges in her home state and others across the nation. The pandemic prevented her from directly visiting schools she was interested in.

“While I was looking for a school, Plymouth State popped up on my browser and I thought it looked beautiful,” says Plaza. Head Volleyball Coach Joan Forge also liked what she saw when she reviewed Plaza’s game film.

“I was impressed with her skill level and tenacity,” says Forge. “Marissa reached out to me. She wanted an East Coast experience and searched for a university that had a good criminal justice program. I connected with her coach from American River College to get more insight into what Marissa brings, not only to the court but also off the court. Her college coach spoke very highly of her as a person who would fit into our positive team culture. I immediately offered Marissa a roster spot on our team that she accepted shortly afterwards.”

Once Plaza chose to become a Panther, she punched Plymouth State University into her GPS and drove the nearly 3,000 miles without an inch to spare in the car. It helped that she had always wanted to travel.

The transition from coast to coast was harder than expected. “I didn’t know a single person when I came here, and I didn’t know any of the roads,” says Plaza. “Also, people are always talking about the teams we’re playing, as in who’s good and who’s bad, and I just had no idea what they were talking about.” Plaza soldiered through an initial period where she felt lost on campus, but she found comfort in a University community that overwhelmed her with kindness.

The Volleyball Team’s chemistry has played a big part in Plaza’s acclimatization, and she raves about numerous pre-season bonding nights. “We set up a projector at one of my teammates’ houses and watched movies and talked about life,” she says. “It was great because up until that point, we only talked about volleyball. It was super fun.”

That chemistry has also been crucial to the team’s success. “Marissa fits in well with our positive team culture, and she works hard every day to better herself and the players around her,” says Coach Forge. “She is friendly, respectful, and level-headed, and brings maturity and composure to the court, which is helpful during the stress of competition.”

Now a criminal justice major at PSU, Plaza wants to help others with her degree and become a victim advocate. She is working hard to help those affected by sexual assault, whom she can relate to due to her own traumatizing experiences.

The team’s exciting 23-3 season ended in the Little East Conference’s semifinal round, and Plaza was named the Defensive Player of the Year. Her East Coast experience is just getting underway, however, and she has advice for others who might want to follow her footsteps by continuing their academic and sports careers in faraway locations. “It was one of the most challenging things that I’ve ever done, but I’ve grown so much as a person and I’m so glad I did it.” ■ Ryan Gillen ’22