As the only setter on the Yale volleyball team, Jacqueline Becker ’06 is already quite used to rushing from one spot to another. On the court, you will see Becker sprint to her position at bottom right corner after every serve. On campus, you may spot her on the way from class to Payne Whitney Gymnasium, and from there, hustling back to Morse to get ready for a cappella practice.
The Newport Beach, Calif., native said though it keeps her schedule packed, she knew from the very beginning that volleyball and singing would be her two top priorities in college.
“I knew I wanted to leave California. I knew I wanted to play volleyball. And I knew I wanted to sing,” Becker said.
Becker has proven her skills as the 2002 Ivy League Rookie of the Year on the court and as an acclaimed soprano with The New Blue. She said that she needed to leave California in order to have time to pursue both activities.
Since volleyball is such a big sport in her home state, Becker said she did not want to go to a school where her volleyball schedule would be too intense to afford time for her other interests. In high school, Becker played volleyball year-round on her Corona del Mar High School team and, once the school season was over, on high-level club teams. In her senior year of high school, she was a member of the national champion Laguna Beach club team.
Though Becker is only a sophomore, her commanding presence has helped lead the Bulldogs (7-2) to their best start in 11 years.
“She brings a lot of experience to the setter position,” head coach Erin Appleman said.
Some of Becker’s experience may be hereditary. Her father and uncle both played collegiate volleyball at UCLA, and her sister Marissa was a setter at Princeton through her junior season last year. Her father first introduced her to the game when she was in the fifth grade. Still, Becker said she was never pushed to stick with volleyball and actually played competitive soccer for eight years.
“[My father] wasn’t like ‘I wanna teach you everything I know,’” said Becker, explaining that volleyball with her father was a bonding activity — not a traumatic training session.
By her junior year in high school, Becker realized that she would only have time for one sport if she was going to realize her potential in volleyball and continue singing seriously.
“Yale’s a refreshing change,” she said. “[Volleyball] is a completely different experience here. People are still really competitive about it, but it’s a good balance because I get to do other things, too.”
Members of The New Blue said they are glad Becker decided to continue singing at Yale. Although she has had to miss a few concerts for volleyball matches, she was quick to clarify that one activity is not a higher priority than the other. Since being tapped last fall, Becker has rarely missed any of the group’s five hours of practice a week.
“It’s impressive how good she is at both [volleyball and singing],” said fellow New Blue soprano Lauren Curtis ’05. “Jackie is one of the few that is amazing at everything she does.”
As to what makes her an “amazing” performer, teammates, coaches and group members keep coming back to the same two traits: consistency and versatility. Curtis commended Becker for being both a great soloist and valuable background singer, while volleyball team captain Taryn Gallup ’04 said Becker, sixth all-time for Yale in career assists, can also come up with apt kills and blocks.
“I love watching her attack the ball,” said Gallup after the Bulldogs returned from a second place finish at the Wagner Tournament last Monday.
Becker enjoys it, too. At 5 feet 7 inches, Becker loves stunning opposing 6-foot-tall blockers by taking them on at the net in what is referred to as “jousting.” She has also been known to change things up for her a cappella audiences by singing solos for upbeat songs like “Say a Little Prayer,” and then slowing it down for R&B classics like “Killing Me Softly.”
While she may still surprise some opponents, her team has come to expect steady play and leadership from its sole setter.
“She’s consistent and that’s what you need from a setter,” assistant coach David Foster said. “You know you’ll get the same thing out of Jackie every day.”