Will Avera: The long and inevitable journey to Master’s – by Melissa Dickson

“God give me clarity for my future for volleyball.”

Will Avera had no idea what he was inviting when he prayed that prayer in the summer of 2021.

Traveling back to the summer of 2019, Avera had just graduated from Clovis Unified in Fresno, Calif. and looked up “California Christian colleges with volleyball programs.” Mere months off of it’s first ever men’s volleyball season, TMU didn’t come up.

After struggling to find anything that fit, whether financially or academically, Avera landed on Fresno State. Since Fresno State doesn’t have an official collegiate team, he joined their club team his freshman year.

“The men’s club team scene is pretty competitive but not the same as a legit program.” Avera said. Initially, he planned to spend all four of his college years at Fresno State, playing club and studying law.

Their 2020 spring season was cut short while they were on their way to win nationals, sending Avera back to where he was the previous summer.

“After COVID hit, I didn’t think I’d go anywhere.”

After taking a year off of college volleyball, taking online classes through Fresno, Avera began praying about where to go next. He looked at U.C. Merced, Cal-State Northridge or staying at Fresno, but “all three felt ambiguous.”

Three days after he started praying, a friend he had asked to pray for him ran into an old player of Jared Goldberg’s, TMU’s men’s volleyball coach, at a coffee shop.

“They hit it off,” Avera said and somewhere in the conversation “[his] name got mentioned.”

Avera sent his film in, received a call from Goldberg and was immediately asked to provide his testimony.

Coming from an all public-school experience, this was shocking to Avera. Hearing Goldberg say he’s “looking for men who are Christian first, athletes second” sparked his interest in a school he still knew nothing about.

After visiting the school and liking what he saw, he needed more confirmation that TMU was where he needed to be. “I still wasn’t sure… I was 95%.”

Not long after his campus visit, Avera was at a co-ed tournament, where he spotted a girl with a Mustang shirt on and decided to ask her where it was from.

Following the trend of the previous weeks, her name was Katie Emmerling, the graduated, former starting setter for the TMU women’s volleyball team.

Avera stepped back to evaluate his college choices once again. “I’d never heard of this place but now I’m hearing it all over the place… I was being stubborn, really.” he said.

The “final straw” for Avera came during church that next week, when a guest pastor spoke on his college and seminary experience in a tiny college in southern California.

He was a TMU graduate.

After the sermon, Avera called Goldberg and secured his spot on the team.

“I don’t know why God wants me here, but He wants me here.”

Avera said that he is excited about learning and playing volleyball in a place where “what’s ‘right’ is biblically centered” after spending his career in a place where he was the only one serious about his faith.

His goal is to focus on working hard and honing his skills in a God-honoring way throughout the season.

“Part of the reason I’m so excited going forward at Master’s at volleyball, building a program that is new is because it’s a challenge to take a competitive sport and do it in a godly way.”

Teammate Tate Kiledjian said that, “It’s been really interesting to see so many people coming into the team from other colleges because they’re working with that same mindset of ‘I have a limited amount of time to play volleyball,;” and that he sees that in Avera himself.

Who knew that the simple prayer of “God give me clarity for my future for volleyball” would lead to all of this?

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