ASHLAND, Ore. — It’s a bit disconcerting for SOU’s opponents when Motade Atanda rises for the attack. Maybe it’s the nearly four kills per set, or maybe it’s the lightning speed on her finish.
“She hits it pretty fast so it’s coming up,” head coach Josh Rohlfing said. “It’s coming at you like a fastball from 20 feet away, and it’s tough.”
It’s intimidating and can shake the confidence of those on the other side of the net, but it wasn’t long ago that a variety of circumstances shook Atanda’s confidence.
“It’s kind of been like a rocky few years for me,” Atanda said.
She’s been to three schools, one Division I, on Junior College and then SOU.
“I was questioning if I wanted to continue playing after Butler,” Atanda said.
Butler is where Atanda’s college career started, but it was far from home and she was getting sporadic playing time. Then she transferred to Foothill Junior College where she was named an All-American. SOU took notice and Rohlfing send an assistant coach to watch Atanda play.
“I sent him to the showcase for the California junior college, and she was playing there, and he said, ‘Yeah, she’s legit, and she’s somebody that we need to be looking at,’” Rohlfing said.
Atanda ended up in Ashland three years ago. She loved the area and the school, but the confidence still wasn’t quite there.
“It’s just taken a little bit of time in that regard,” Rohlfing said. “Last year she probably could have played a little bit more for us, but she still had some things to improve on.”
“Playing a lot definitely helps your confidence,” Atanda said. “Just being out there on the court, playing a different opponent besides your own team.”
Now, three states, colleges and coaches later, Atanda’s confidence is peaking.
“Now it’s definitely all come together. I’m starting. I’m playing a lot,” Atanda said.
“She’s unbelievable. I mean, you get ooos and aahs every time she goes up to take a swing,” Rohlfing said. “No matter where we go, someone’s commenting on her. Truly one of the best players in the nation.”
She makes it look so easy, but there’s a lot that goes in to Motade Atanda’s swing, starting with a wayward path to Southern Oregon and ending with a whole lot of confidence.