By Jeremy Gonzalez
Chemistry is one of the most important traits any successful sports team must possess. Good chemistry can elevate a team to an elite status that makes them difficult to beat; bad chemistry can kill it, as a team’s identity is more about the individual than the collective unit.
A coach or manager plays a pivotal role in chemistry, as they need to meld different personalities, egos and mindsets into a cohesive unit. But athletes can also help the chemistry by being around each other on and off the field, or in this case the court.
At the heart of the Toros volleyball team are two athletes doing just that. Junior Lynda Nguyen, defensive specialist and libero, who leads the team in digs, and her best friend and what she calls her near-sister, Jordan Ramirez, the team’s setter who is second on the team in assists.
Their chemistry, contributions and communication on the court are extremely notable when watching them play or practice. And that bond was forged nearly 400 hours north, during their club days at Encore Volleyball Club in the Bay Area city of Redwood City.
“There was an open gym one day and I remember this little Asian girl on the court,” Ramirez said. “She was extremely loud, constantly calling ‘my ball.’ And I loved it because you have to be loud when you play volleyball.”
Nguyen was that obnoxious newcomer who grabbed Ramirez’s attention. As team practices continued and the season progressed, Nguyen and Ramirez grew on each other and their friendship tightened.
Once their time at Encore ended, they had a chance to meet the Toros volleyball coaches through their club head coach and visited the campus shortly after.
Nguyen was the first of the two to commit to CSUDH and Ramirez followed a week later. The two friends now became roommates and college teammates, donning the Toro cardinal and gold as freshmen in 2017.
Each said that coming to Dominguez Hills has improved their overall game significantly because the program competes in the California Collegiate Athletics Association, which is pretty much to Division II basketball what the SEC is to Division I football, multiple nationally ranked schools and decorated volleyball programs.
“Competing at a level like the CCAA is something I never thought I would accomplish in my career, especially because of my height and physical body,” said Nguyen, who stands at five feet according to Toros Athletics. “I’ve gotten very mentally tough. The girls who play in this division can read you and know when you feel [mentally] small and weak. You can’t really show that. I went back to my roots and had to earn what I wanted.”
Both Nguyen and Ramirez were introduced to the sport at a very young age. It was a part of their childhood like Saturday morning cartoons and eventually grew into one of the most important aspects of their lives, playing a role that goes beyond the court.
Ramirez said her mental toughness has grown during her time as a Toro and said volleyball is a sport that teaches you many life lessons, including how to work well with others.
They have been key components this season for a program that has only finished at .500 or better four times, but currently has a 9-6 overall record. They said that as gratifying it has been to grow closer as friends and into better athletes, it’s just as gratifying to use their bond to help contribute to the team’s success.
“The first two years were tough,” Nguyen said. “This season has been the best one we’ve had together so far in comparison to our last two seasons. Things are definitely getting better. I feel very comfortable playing with [Ramirez] and her being on the court with me makes me feel more comfortable about my own game.”