Across two years at Orange Coast College, volleyball standout Hunter Dickey excelled on and off the court, before capping off his stay with a transfer to Stanford University.
Dickey, 20, an undecided major, began his volleyball career around the age of 13, picking up the sport for high school with the goal of getting a scholarship to a Division I powerhouse.
After high school, Dickey had opportunities to walk on at multiple colleges including UC Santa Barbara, Ohio State and Pepperdine.
On decision day, Dickey visited UC Santa Barbara and came to the conclusion that there would be a different opportunity down the line.
“In the moment, it felt a bit crazy,” Dickey said of the decision, finding the answer only after praying. “I felt [him say] right as we were pulling home, ‘you’re going to OCC.’”
“The Orange Coast College volleyball family is one of the most gritty and just awesome, put- your-head-to-the-grindstone-and-go-for-it type of programs,” Dickey said.
Acclimation to volleyball at OCC was made easier for Dickey, who linked up with his former Balboa Bay Volleyball Club coach Travis Turner.
Turner had assisted Dickey in the recruiting process out of high school before the decision was made to play at OCC.
The 2018-2019 team that Dickey joined was one of the Pirates’ best, compiling 22 consecutive wins before suffering a semifinal defeat in the state championship.
“We had a lot of older guys on that team,” Dickey said. “Coming out of high school it was a little bit of a shock, to be like ‘OK shoot – I’m playing with grown men.’”
Dicky appeared in 13 matches that season picking up 38 kills, and five digs, while gaining a well of new experience.
When the 2020 season rolled around, Dickey was a starter and finished the shortened season with 41 kills, and 25 digs in nine appearances.
His ability on the volleyball court, the leadership he showed on student senate, as well as the work he did in the classroom, helped round out his Stanford application.
“It wasn’t just some kid getting in, it was really an OCC family making this happen,” Dickey said. “In terms of my college education, I owe everything to them.”
He appreciates OCC and its faculty’s support.
“There’s a memorial scholarship that we as a school were able to set up for student-athletes who really embody the grit and the heart that Coach [John] Altobelli had,” Dickey said. “Seeing them honor him so well was truly a testament of how awesome this place is.”
Now at Stanford, Dickey has had to adjust to not only a new university but also the uncertainty of what’s to come to the volleyball program.
In July, Stanford announced that volleyball – along with 10 other sports – would not be returning to the campus next year, effectively cutting off the hopes and dreams of hundreds of Olympic hopefuls.
“There wasn’t any indicator beforehand that would point us in the direction [that] we’re going to be cut,” Dickey said of Stanford’s decision. “It was cut and dry,”
The teams were grouped in a Zoom webinar before being informed for the first time.
Since the news went public, Dickey has received support from members of the staff at OCC, as well as his one-time teammates.
“It’s been amazing, you know OCC like I said is a family. It’s more than a two-year commitment – it's a lifelong thing,” Dickey said.
With no control over their fate, Dickey and his team’s future livelihood lies in the hands of their supporters. They have since created a petition and various media outlets including a website, Twitter, and Facebook in hopes of raising support.
“As a team, we’ve met with the athletic director twice now, and we’re really hopeful that these conversations will continue to be productive, and hopefully give us an opportunity to come back,” Dickey said.
Having not even played a game at Stanford, Dickey remains hopeful that the time will eventually come.
“It’s going to be like a marathon. It’s not going to be a sprint bringing this program back,” Dickey said. “That’s what I’m kind of keeping my hope on – that we’ve gotten this far, the story of getting from OCC to Stanford, and that there’s a lot of purpose behind this and keeping that hope that it is possible. We believe that we can save our program.”
Dickey has no plans of giving up on volleyball at Stanford regardless of how bad it looks. With future aspirations of representing the United States in the Olympics, he’s focused on only one thing.
“I want to be here 100%, and I’m going to be here 100%,” Dickey said. “I’m a junior right now so I’m in it for the long haul trying to fight this thing, and get the program back. I’m not going anywhere.