Iya Lindahl was just a freshman at Patrick Henry High School in San Diego when she took her first college visit. She knew she was going to play volleyball for someone, somewhere. The only questioned that remained was where it would be, and for whom she would be competing.
That year, a young assistant coach named Meagan Schmitt took Lindahl on her first tour: Loyola Marymount University.
Four years later, Lindahl was playing for Schmitt — now Meagan Owusu — but not for LMU. Owusu had taken over the beach volleyball program at Cal, signing Lindahl to become a Bear. They thought Lindahl’s career had come full circle then: First collegiate visit links them together for four more years, albeit at a different school.
It’s a pretty story, but one that wasn’t even close to being finished.
After this strange and truncated 2020 season, Lindahl knew she wasn’t going to return to Berkeley. She had finished her undergraduate degree, was looking forward to moving down to Southern California and beginning her career on the AVP, for which she has already qualified three times. She was ready to move on.
And with the season cut short and the NCAA allowing this year’s seniors to play again in 2021, she had options.
“The only schools I’d entertain are Southern California schools with good coaches,” she said, days after the season was cancelled.
She had already discussed potentially coaching for Mayer as a volunteer assistant, since Betsi Flint was recently promoted to a full-time position, leaving her volunteer spot open. But that conversation had happened in the fall, under the belief that Lindahl’s eligibility would have expired. When the NCAA granted an extra year of eligibility to spring athletes, she put her name on the transfer portal.
“Right away,” Mayer said, “I reached out.”
The 5-foot-8 Lindahl, who had a 9-1 record this season at Cal on the No. 1 court, laughs at how oddly poetic this is. She played for four years for the coach who took her on her first collegiate visit. Now, after committing to Mayer and LMU, initially as a coach, she’ll finish her collegiate career playing for the first school she visited.
“When I was going to be a volunteer assistant for them it was really full circle, and now that I’m playing for them it was full circle full circle,” Lindahl said. “It’s beautiful. I fell in love when I visited a long time ago.”
When the season ended this spring, LMU was ranked No. 8 — its highest ranking ever — in the last AVCA coaches poll (Cal was right behind at No. 9). In Lindahl, LMU gets another No. 1-court talent as it continues its ascent up the NCAA ladder. She joins two incoming freshmen, Aliisa Vuorinen from Finland and Isabelle Reffel (who will also play indoors) from Sweden.
Their arrival prompted Mayer to say in a school news release when LMU announced all three signings, “We are so thrilled to be adding Aliisa, Isabelle and Iya to our team next season. We feel like we’re going to have a roster that can compete for a national championship.”
Lindahl leaves Berkeley as the second winningest player in Cal history, with the highest winning percentage on No. 1 (.900) and No. 3 (.929). But LMU also gets a player who’s an absolute volleyball fanatic, something Mayer, a self-admitted volleyball geek himself, can appreciate.
“That’s exactly who we want,” said Mayer, who led LMU to its first WCC title a year ago and had the Lions positioned to make the NCAA Championships for the first time in school history this season.
“Mainly just the conversations with her I could see that she’s a volleyball fanatic. She was talking to me about the Tim Grover plyometric program she was going to start. Just the questions she was asking, it’s clear she’s motivated to be great and luckily enough we got her.”