Downtime doesn't appear to be in the cards for Penelope Zepeda this fall.
In the thick of her sophomore season as a hitter on the Bakersfield College volleyball team, the former Frontier High standout's days are jam-packed. Aside from dealing with the stress of the season and her studies as a psychology major, Zepeda also has a part-time job, one that often keeps her working until 2 a.m.
Toss in routine treatment for a nagging inflamed Achilles that has kept her in a walking boot for part of the season and you might think Zepeda would be worn down. But if she's feeling any sort of fatigue, Renegade coach Carl Ferreira says she never brings it onto the court.
"She just goes about her business, does what she does and never complains," Ferreira said. "She has been effortless to work with since I've had the opportunity to know her. I don't have enough superlatives to express about her."
Zepeda, who played club ball under Ferreira before arriving at BC, says the coach has played a big role in the development of her level-headed mentality.
"Everything we do is just about being in the moment and I think that's really helped me as a person to grow every single day," she said.
That "in the moment" mentality is helping Zepeda play the best volleyball of her career.
Entering a Wednesday home match against Citrus, Zepeda is at or near the top of most of statistical categories for BC. She currently leads the team in kills (158) and points (189) and is second in digs (143) and aces (24).
While the jack-of-all-trades style has proven a major asset for the Renegades, it's made her a bit of an enigma for recruiters at four-year schools.
Listed at 5-foot-9, she's likely undersized to play outside hitter with high-level Division-I programs. Ferreira says he's even discussed the possibility of her switching to libero at the next level to attract the attention of bigger programs.
Currently, Zepeda says her only discussion has been with Division II Sonoma State. But even facing some uncertainty, she adamantly states "I will play after this year," while preparing for a career as a school psychologist.
For the time being, her sole focus is on helping the Renegades take the next step following a disappointing close to the postseason a year ago.
Entering on a 19-match win streak, BC stumbled in 3-1 state quarterfinal loss to Fresno. After rallying to win the third set 25-12, the Renegades forced a 21-21 tie late in the fourth, only for the Rams to score four straight points to end the match and their season.
"In the beginning it was hard, but we had to be mature about it," Zepeda said of getting over the loss. "The only thing we can control is now. We really cleared our minds and put that in the past and we're moving forward."
Though not boisterous with her declarations, Zepeda and her teammates clearly have their sights set high.
"I don't want to get too far along, but obviously it would be amazing to win a state title," she said.
Currently ranked ninth in the CCCAA, the 10-2 Renegades are off to a 2-0 start in WCS South play. After hosting Citrus at 6 p.m. today, they travel to face Santa Monica at 6 p.m. Friday.