By Dan Beardslee - Class of 2007
Nov. 2, 2005
WASHINGTON - It's pretty hard to imagine American University volleyball senior Cutrina Biddulph (Reseda, Calif./Granada Hills) ever joking around when she's out on the court slamming kills and shutting down opponent attacks at the net. In her four years at AU, the long-armed 6-4 middle blocker has steadily become almost unstoppable in the Patriot League.
Ask any of her teammates though, and they'll say a good joke is probably the easiest way to get her out of her game.
"Cutrina can always come up with a joke," said junior Elizabeth Maloney (Toronto, Ontario/Richview C.I.) of Biddulph. "She'll laugh when she's not supposed to."
Her ability to stay relaxed is one of the things Biddulph says is behind her continued success. "I just have more patience instead of being anxious," she said. "All [I] need to worry about is competing."
In her first year at AU, Biddulph was promptly ushered into the Eagle tradition of developing young talent. "It's nice for the younger players," says head coach Barry Goldberg of his reliance on upperclassmen to get the freshman competitive with the rest of the team. "We automatically become like the people around us. That's the way we were made."
"Cutrina can always come up with a joke. She'll laugh when she's not supposed to."
Teammate Liz Maloney
The Californian's impact as a freshman is something Goldberg predicted early on in the recruiting process. "After we saw her play in a tournament or two, we realized she had great ability as a student-athlete," he said, recalling his initial reactions to her play. That year she garnered PL Rookie of the Year and Second Team All-PL accolades as well as an honorable mention selection to the Northeast All-Region team.
Fast-forward to senior year where Biddulph leads the league in hitting percentage and points per game and has already been honored as PL Player of the Week twice this season, leading AU to an 11-1 conference record.
But to Biddulph, who started playing volleyball mid-way through high school, the journey from freshman year to the present as the league's marquee player has been an eye-opening experience. "My first two years here, I was definitely unsure of where I was going," she said of her early experiences. "I just didn't know what I had in store."
After her first year success, Biddulph hit a dead spot at the beginning of her sophomore season. "It was hard for me to get into a rhythm," she said, recalling her expanded role in the Eagles' offensive and defensive schemes. By mid-season she had regained her confidence, finishing second on the team in blocks per game and kills per game, and was a First Team All-Patriot League selection.
In 2004 with Kucerkova graduated, Biddulph stepped up. She led the league in kill percentage, was named PL Co-Player of the Year, was selected as a Northeast regional all-star, and an AVCA Honorable Mention All-American. Over the past three years "she's just gotten so much better to the point where she's unstoppable," said Maloney.
Additionally, in February of 2005, Biddulph was given the chance to tryout for the U.S. National Team in Colorado Springs, Co. "I got to see what was out there," she said of the opportunity she shared with approximately 40 other players from around the country. The experience was encouraging and added to her desire to play after college. "I am planning on looking at playing overseas ... I'd really, really love to do that."
Biddulph's progression as a player has mirrored the improvements of her as a leader. "I know I need to be more of a role model," she commented. "I guess I really didn't understand how to go about it at first."
As a volleyball coach this past spring for kids 13 and under, Biddulph learned that being in charge can sometimes test your patience. "One thing that frustrated me so much was when I would tell them to do something so simple, so basic, and they wouldn't do it," she said. The experience she had with the team became somewhat of a revelation in looking at a coach-athlete relationship and Biddulph took the lessons she gained into a 2005 season that featured a handful of newcomers that needed a strong leader.
With the loss of six seniors to graduation, the 2005 Eagles have relied on the senior leadership of Biddulph and libero Jennifer Cosco (Montvale, N.J./Pascack Hills) as well as 2004 contributors Chelsa Brooks (Hilliard, Ohio/Hilliard Darby) and Maloney. Armed with her new outlook, Biddulph's easy-going personality has been a calming influence for this year's young Eagles' squad. "She just took all of us freshman in," said first year stand-out Christina Nash (Princeton, Fla./Coral Reef) of her captain's help this season. "She's always an uplifting positive player."
"The number one goal for this team is to beat Army right now."
The team played well enough to win its first six PL games, extending the conference winning streak to 70 matches, before Army stunned AU on the road in a dominating 3-0 win. The Eagles have a shot at revenge against the Black Knights this Saturday on senior day at Bender Arena at 7 p.m. as they play for the right to host the PL Tournament.
As American turns to the weekend and the remainder of its season, Biddulph will look to her teammates for the support that they've always given her. "She's a member of a team," said Goldberg of the middle blocker who is hitting .433 with 4.62 kills per game in PL play. "[That means] she doesn't have to be the whole team."
Asked about the significance of this weekend's game on her season and perhaps career, Biddulph's mood shifts from her usual blithe, bright manner and she does not mince words "The number one goal for this team is to beat Army right now," she said.