Aug 302005
Authors: Paul Baker

Whether it's the way she handles herself on the court or the animated stories she tells about her childhood, there's just something about Dre Downs that makes you smile when you talk to her.

Downs came to CSU from Clinton, Utah. In seventh grade, she thought it would be cool to try out for her school's volleyball team; even though she hadn't played the sport before.

"I was really bad when I first started," Downs said of her trying out for volleyball. "My mom had already planned a speech to comfort me when I got home, but I ended up making the team."

So she started practicing in her backyard by herself everyday. She started playing for her local club volleyball team, the Players, so she could work on her skills year round.

Her practice paid off.

Downs was named to the all-region team every year in high school. She also set single season records for digs both her sophomore and junior year.

Coming out of high school, Downs was recruited by big name schools like Stanford, UCLA, Southern California, Brigham Young and Utah.

"We've never had a player that has been recruited from schools like that ever come to CSU," said head coach Tom Hilbert . "At first we thought we didn't have a shot at her, but she kept calling and contacting us."

The community and the balance of the coaching staff is what ended up enticing Downs to pick Fort Collins.

"Tom (Hilbert) was very honest; very reasonable with me when I talked to him," Downs said. "He never told me things that wouldn't happen."

Downs is a senior this year and will graduate in December. In her first three years she has already accomplished more than most players do in an entire career. Her most noticeable accomplishment was being named an all-American honorable mention last year. She was also named the Mountain West Conference (MWC) Player of the week twice for her contributions against conference rivals Utah and BYU.

This year will introduce a new challenge for Downs . Coach Hilbert has recently moved her from right side hitter to middle blocker.

"The move happened because we were a little thin in that position coming off of last year," Hilbert said. "She is a great blocker, high energy and will do fine in the middle."

Downs said it has been a challenge this year moving positions, but she is thinking about her team and not herself.

"I support Tom in his decision, for me to play middle," said Downs . "But its hard because I'm a little inexperienced."

Downs' position may have changed, but her pre-game rituals will remain the same.

"I have to brush my teeth before every match," Downs said. "I have to have my hair in a messy bun, and I have to lay my socks out and smooth all the wrinkles out before I put them on."

Off the court, Downs said she likes to go hiking or go to the park to read a nice book. Eating, listening to Michael Jackson, going to Hobby Lobby and watching Oprah are also on her list of favorite things to do.

"I like to go to Hobby Lobby and see what people are up to," Downs said with a laugh. "Even though I'm not good at crafts, I still think its fun."

With memorable experiences like going to Europe to play volleyball, winning the MWC in 2003 with a 14-0 conference record and playing against Purdue last year in the NCAA Tournament, Downs will have a lot to take away from CSU.

But one last shot at the conference title and a trip the NCAA tournament wouldn't hurt.

"Being with my team is memorable in itself," said Downs. "We fight, yell, laugh. We see each other at our best and worst, and I wouldn't change that."



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