She started playing indoor volleyball, but found that beach volleyball was her game

By Jenelyn Russo     12/6/2015

When Gigi Hernandez began playing indoor volleyball at the age of 9, she received some important advice that dramatically altered her path as an athlete.

“I was told that the best way to get good at indoor (volleyball) is by playing beach (volleyball),” says Hernandez.

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Hernandez didn’t care much for beach volleyball at first. But wanting to improve her indoor game, she spent a summer playing in several tournaments at the beach and slowly began to have a different feeling about the sport on the sand.

“It just kind of grew on me,” says Hernandez.

At age 15, and after playing club indoor volleyball for seven years, Hernandez decided to make beach volleyball her primary focus. Shortly after making that decision, the JSerra Catholic High School senior committed to Pepperdine University, where she will play beach volleyball for the Wave while studying sports psychology.

“I think beach (volleyball) was more of my calling and what I wanted to do,” says Hernandez, “and I decided to do what I love.”

Even with her college plans already in place, the 18-year-old Hernandez continued to play indoor volleyball for the Lions, as well as on JSerra’s newly formed beach volleyball team called “JSand.”

“Gigi has been instrumental in the growth and success of the JSerra girls volleyball program, having helped the team create program history the last three consecutive years,” says JSerra girls’ volleyball head coach Mike Murphy of the four-year starter and co-captain. “What sets her apart is her love for what she does and her attitude toward reaching her goals. Gigi is continually pursuing excellence with a joyful passion.”

For Hernandez, pursuing excellence includes reaching a specific goal: earning back her spot on the USA Volleyball Junior Beach National Team (A1) in the USA Volleyball Beach High Performance Program—a position she held for two consecutive years before coming up short last year.

“I’m going to work really hard…because it’s something I really want to do before I enter my next chapter at Pepperdine,” says Hernandez.

Off the court, Hernandez recently returned from a Thanksgiving holiday trip to Baja California, where she and her family arranged to mentor and tutor kids living in a local orphanage. It’s both a project and a community for which Hernandez shares a deep passion.

Excited about the next stage of her beach volleyball career, the San Juan Capistrano resident is looking forward to the challenge up the coast but aims to maintain her focus on the bigger picture.

“We’re not always going to be perfect. There are bigger things in life than just a volleyball game,” says Hernandez. “We should always remember what we are really here for and what the main purpose is in our lives. [Volleyball] is just one aspect of my life as a child of God.”