The Story of Angela
Angela Knopf was born on April 27th in Portland, Oregon. Her parents Greg and Bonnie Knopf still live on the farm where she grew up located near the Columbia Gorge. Her mom, Bonnie is a talented musician and amazing vocalist. You can see her on http://www.bonnieknopf.com/ Her father, Greg, is in Angela's opinion the “best doctor in the world” and has helped keep Angela healthy during her career. His practice is located in Troutdale, Oregon (Gresham Family Medical) and is well loved, especially by Angela. He also recently published a book on depression and is traveling around speaking in conferences while Bonnie sings at them.
The talent doesn't stop there, Angela has two brothers. Brent, her older brother has been in an nationally popular band “El VY” (www.elvy.co) as well as his solo project, called "Ramona Falls" ( www.ramonafalls.com ) He has spent a great deal of time supporting and encouraging Angela to pursue her dreams. He currently lives in Portland when he's not touring all over the world. Angela's younger brother, Eric, the family entrepreneur owns his own company called Webconnex (online registration and many other bells and whistles) www.webconnex.com and lives in Sacramento with his wife Camille, daughter Scarlett, son Maverick and dog Coco.
Angela attended Sam Barlow High School in Gresham, Oregon where she was a dominating three-sport athlete. She played Volleyball, basketball and tennis on varsity all 4 years as well as played club volleyball for Cascade Juniors and Nike Northwest Juniors. It was in high school, that the love of sports, especially volleyball grew into a huge passion. She was blessed by talented coaches who invested in her and took time to really help her succeed. She especially connected with Joe Houck, who was the head coach at Sam Barlow High School at the time and who she still reveres as one of the best coaches she has ever met. Her high school volleyball team won 2 back to back state championships under the amazing direction of Joe and his assistants. To cap off her high school years, her Nike club team concluded with a 2nd place finish at the Davis Festival under that influence of Jim Hartner and Rod Jones. (club nationals)
Colorado State University would be the place Angela would choose to continue her education and she was awarded a full scholarship to play under coach Tom Hilbert in Fort Collins, Colorado. What she didn't know is that Fort Collins would soon become her new home filled with amazing life long friends and teammates and the best fans in the country. “Colorado State was definitely the place I was meant to go to college. I can’t even begin to describe the incredible blessings I had while there. My teammates, coaches and fans made my journey there priceless.” While at Colorado State, Angela helped the Rams reach as high as 3rd place in the national rankings, the highest the program had ever achieved. They had monumental wins over #1 UCLA at the NCWAA classic on national television and well as 3 sweet sixteen finishes. She received many honors including Two-Time 1st-team Division I All-American, 2-time Mountain West Conference MVP, and Colorado Volleyball Sportswoman of the year. She left her mark on the record books in several categories, which still stand today and even left her senior year by holding the nations Division 1 top hitting percentage at .386. Not only was Angela a standout on the court but in the classroom as well. She was a mathematics major with an emphasis in secondary education and graduated with a 3.73 grade point average. She was honored twice to the Division 1 Academic All-American team her junior and senior year. You can see her massive list of accolades under “learn” tab.
Shortly after her senior season, Angela was invited to play with the USA volleyball Olympic national training team in January 2002 and she quickly accepted this incredible opportunity. It was quite the Christmas gift and Angela left school to begin her new experience at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. There she met and worked with many of the most talented athletes in the nation and worked under coach, Toshi Yoshida. Angela played at the middle blocker position her entire career but was too “short” for the international competition so the USA team trained her as an outside hitter. In March of 2002, the team did a US national tour and competed against the Chinese National Team at four different locations in the Midwest. She was the starting outside hitter in all of those matches. Angela sure learned a lot, but perhaps the greatest lesson Angela learned was about injuries. While training she found out she had 3 bleeding ulcers, lost over 1/3 of her blood and ended up leaving the USA team in late may to get healthy again. Overall the experience was so valuable to Angela's journey in volleyball and she was grateful for the opportunity to learn more. “Being on the USA national team was an once in a life-time opportunity. I got to train with some of the best athletes in the country, and lived and breathed volleyball 7 days a week. It was super intense, but I’m so grateful I was able to learn and play for the USA.”
That next summer, although Angela never knew it, would be one of the most crucial summers of her "beach" career. Once healthy again, Angela and her teammate from CSU, Krista Swartzendruber (now Wilper), decided to play in the Motherlode Beach Championship in Aspen, Colorado. When they arrived they noticed their names weren't even on the bracket and were seeded dead last. The pair had never played sand volleyball before but took one game at a time and with great chemistry together and hard work the pair found themselves in the finals!! The finals proved to be tough but ironically Angela and Krista pulled it off, they came out as Champions and their names were engraved on the court poles. The next year they went back to defend their title and won it all again, except this time their names were on the bracket! This little success really caught the attention of Angela who was enjoying the new aspects of this beach volleyball game. It was more compatible to her "style" of game, the strategy and all around skills.
A few months later Angela was surprised to learn that she was awarded the “Female Athlete of the Year” for CSU as well as the “Fum McGraw” award which honors the top student in the entire athletic department who exemplified commitment to academics, athletics, character and community service. To add to the list she was also named Colorado's NCAA woman of the Year among all female athletes in the state of Colorado and a top 10 finalist nationally. She was flown to Indiana for a big ceremony in which they honored the top 10 finalists.
At this time, Angela came to a crossroads in her life. Did she continue to play or become a teacher? Angela biggest priority was to go back to finish school, so she went back to CSU and earned a degree in mathematics. Shortly after she landed an amazing job at Fossil Ridge High School, a brand new high school where she would not only be a full-time math teacher, but the head H.S. volleyball coach. There she had a wonderful group of students and athletes who she adored enormously.
However, it wasn't until that next Spring when Angela competed in the Adult indoor Volleyball Nationals in Denver Colorado with her team "Team Able" in May of 2005 that she realized that playing was still in her blood. The team that actually featured Angela’s CSU setter Allison Peckham (now Stassen) and teammate/beach partner Krista Swartzendruber, won the entire tournament and Angela was awarded the tournament MVP. After this tournament Angela realized that she still had some playing left in her and moving to California might be her next chapter in life. So she prayed about it endlessly and talked with her family and friends and they all said, "Go for it" Angela recalls the reoccurring statements, "Go! You’re young and need to follow your dreams now, teaching will always be there for you to go back to." So Angela went for it. With the incredible encouragement from her family and special support from the Kranske family, she risked it all and packed her bags, left her amazing home of Fort Collins, Colorado, said goodbye to her fantastic students and headed to Los Angeles, the land of sun and Mecca for beach volleyball.
After almost a year in California, Angela realized that the move was one of the most difficult things she had done in her life. She struggled a lot getting into the “mix” and figuring out everything out there. She left her friends, family and students to pursue her dream. She also encountered a lot of health issues for the 1st six months and wasn't able to even start playing volleyball till late march, when the season had already started. But Angela was able to still play in 8 AVP events (www.avp.com) and ended up making the "main draw" in two events where she played the #2 team in the world Elaine Youngs and Rachel Wacholder. Making the "main draw" which is composed of the top 24 teams in the country was a huge goal and for Angela and to be able to do that twice in her 1st year playing gave her hope and a taste of what she has been dreaming of. That same season, Angela and her partner, Carrie Wright also played in 2 EVP events and won both those tournaments as well as winning her 3rd Championship title in Aspen at the Motherlode Tournament. Angela was able to get her feet wet and gain a little understanding of what this professional volleyball tour was really like. She ended the season hungry, dedicated and ready to work hard all off-season to keep improving.
Another surprise and honor came Angela's way on November 3, 2006. She was inducted to Colorado State's Hall of Fame. Angela, along with her whole family, flew into Colorado and had a wonderful time at her induction ceremony even though Angela's speech was a big too long thanking everyone from her childhood friend to her teammates. Angela considers that weekend "one of the best in my life and the greatest honor of my career! To get this award and for it to come from CSU, a place I call home is so humbling and I am grateful for the opportunity to be placed with such great athletes at CSU."
After the induction Angela began working hard for the 2007 AVP season. She was now getting some beach coaching, and meeting more and more people in the volleyball world. The 2007 AVP schedule was released in January 28th, 2007 and the anticipation was overwhelming. Angela was ready for the upcoming season, for it would be the first season she would be able to play in all the events. On February 28th, 2007, Angela left for practice at 6:30am to start practice at 7:30am. Around 8:00am, Angela went for a ball and due to the very cold and windy conditions, the ball took a swerve and "jammed" Angela's hand, or so she thought. Although painful, Angela pushed through the pain and continued to practice for another hour and half until the pain was too unbearable. She left practice to go home and ice her "jammed" finger. Around 7:30pm the pain was getting worse, until one of Angela's students she tutored told her to go to the emergency room! Angela has jammed many fingers in her playing days but none had hurt the way this one did. She found a hospital an hour away and drove herself there to wait in the emergency room for 4 hours before being seen by the doctor to get an x-ray. Finally around 2:30am Angela left the hospital after learning her hand was broken, while looking down to her arm in a cast wondering what was to happen to her AVP season. Ironically it takes 6 weeks for a broken bone to heal and exactly 6 weeks from that day was the 1st AVP tournament. The next 6 weeks were some of the toughest times for Angela, knowing she would lose her partner, lose all her training she worked for in the off-season, and would be considerably behind the other players once she was able to play again. She even contemplated quitting and moving back to Colorado to teach again, but her heart wouldn't let her go. The passion and dream was still alive and so she persevered. With rehab, Angela was able to get out of her cast in 4 ½ weeks, and started to get back in shape trying to play in the 4th tournament of the year. A couple weeks later, her old college CSU teammate Catie Vagneur-Mintz was looking for a new partner and the old CSU duo decided to team up.
In just their 2nd tournament together they made the "main draw" (top 24 teams) and kept growing and improving from there. Each tournament was a blessing for Angela and she really started to love playing again and enjoying this journey since it was so discouraging for her with her broken hand. Tournament after tournament Angela and Catie were finishing 17th place, the best both had ever done, until the season ended with a total of seven 17th place finishes! The pair did so well towards the end of the season and had earned enough points to not have to qualify in 3 of the last events. Angela really enjoyed playing with Catie and she was so thankful that she persevered through her broken hand. “Although it looked rough for a while, I am so grateful God brought Catie back in my life and we were able to have a fun season. I realized you never know what’s around the corner and I am glad I trusted God to work it all out.” Angela recognizes that without her family and network of friends encouraging her, she might not have been able to make it through the 2007 season “The 2007 season began so hard, but looking back on it now, God truly blessed me and I am thankful for the season we had, the people I met, and especially for all of my family and friends who were there for me along the way!"
Coming off a breakthrough 2007 season, Angela was ready to make some real strides in the 2008 season. However, she didn't realize that would involve 5 partner switches and beating one of the most decorated beach volleyball players.
Angela’s best finish was with Lauren Fendrick in Louiville, Kentucky. They barely won the first match together winning the third game 16-14. They would also win their next match 16-14 in the third again to give Angela her first 9th place finish! Shortly after that win, they found out their next opponent to be the #4 team of Holly McPeak (legendary player, 2nd winningest player ever on the AVP) and her partner Angie Akers. With nothing to lose, Angela played the best defense of her life and Lauren and Angela won the first game 21-18. Unfortunately, winning only one game isn't enough to win the match and they would have to win both. With Angela's defense and Lauren's blocking, they continued to play well and beat #4 team in the second 21-19 to take a 7th place!! "I think I almost did a cartwheel in the sand. That definitely was the best moment since starting to play professionally. I grew up watching and admiring Holly, so to beat her and play in such a competitive and fun game was the highlight of my beach career," said Angela after the match. Floating on cloud 9 didn't last too long as they had to play another game against the Lindquist sisters for a 5th place, and unfortunately didn't pull that one off!
As great at a 7th place finish was (best for both Lauren and Angela), the partnership ended right after that incredible finish due to Lauren already arranging a new partner after that tournament. That set up another partnership for the rest of the season. There weren’t any more 7th, but Angela and her new partner consistently finished 13th in the rest of the events.
After the 2008 season Angela summed up her experience, "It's easy to look at a season and base its success on the wins and losses and even though I had my share of losses and wins, I felt as a whole it was a great season. I can’t believe how many different teammates I played with but I can tell you stories of great adventure and experiences with old and new friends. I can tell you my heart has been touched in a way that I am unable to express in words. I have never been so encouraged, supported and loved by people who have been following me along my dream process. I am constantly in amazement when I experience the generosity of people like the Kranske's, Rayno (at the Egg and I), Theiszens, Abby (Barefoot), Peter Chin (my wonderful agent) amongst so many more who I could fill 5 pages with. The sense of empowerment that goes along with people's support is indescribable. I also know the backbone of my success and survival is solely due to my family. They live and die on each point with me and I am so thankful they are along the journey with me." Angela's favorite addition to the 2008 season was her fan club created by her brother, Eric. " My fan club has also been a blessing in my life. Many of you have taken the time to send me a note of encouragement or congrats along the way during the long season, and I have kept every one of them. I firmly believe that God has placed you all in my life for a reason, and know you have been there for me during those tough moments in pursuing my dream. Thank you!"
Angela’s drive and determination for the 2009 season was enormous. She trained harder than she had ever in her life and was ready to make a mark on the AVP in 2009. Little did she know her persistence and courage would make a long-lasting change in her life. She had always admired a famous coach/player, Liz Masakayan and was able to convince her to train Angela prior to the 2009 season. This gave Angela so much excitement and vigor and Angela was committed to being the best player she could be.
Angela wanted this next season to be different from the previous with just having one partner, but unfortunately, that’s not the nature of playing on the AVP. Everyone is always looking to move up and there isn’t any sense of loyalty and commitment. After playing with a few partners, Angela finally found Chrissie Zartman and they decided to pair up for the remaining tournaments of the year. Chrissie was so unique because she was only 5’4 yet one of the best defensive players in the country. Angela would have to change rolls to be the blocker instead of the defender. Their 1st tourney wasn’t as great as they expected in NYC with a 17th but little did they know what was around the corner, The Manhattan AVP tournament. This is the “granddaddy” of ALL AVP tournaments, the tournament in which the AVP 1st started was just a couple weeks after the NYC tournament. Angela’s parents and little brother (Eric) were coming to watch her so she was excited to play.
This tournament being the most “prestigious” one was different from the others since it was a 64-team tournament not 24. Angela and Chrissie entered as the 26th seed and barely won their 1st game in 3 against a good team. This set up a match again #4 team which they lost 19-21, 21-19, 15-17. It was during this game that crowds of people started cheering for Angela and Chrissie and they became the team to follow and watch. They won their next game to put them playing the next day. The next day, Angela and Chrissie ended up playing 6 matches, winning 5 of them. It was terribly hot and with only 30 minutes rest between games made it a huge fight for the girls. Ironically Angela beat all her former partners and ended up finishing the tournament with a 7th place with Chrissie. There were so many people crowded around Angela and Chrissie’s court, each one of their games was packed. They were the team to cheer for and it was Chrissie’s best finish of her career. So a little 5’4 and 6’0 girls played their hearts out and with the help of all the fans and cheers, they made history together and were the talk of the tournament. “I can’t believe we got a 7th at Manhattan AVP, that was by far the BEST experience ever! I can’t believe all the people who followed us every game and cheered for us. I was so blessed and grateful to share that with my family and was so proud of Chrissie. She played her heart out!” The duo finished out the season together but by far the 7th at Manhattan was the highlight of the season!
After spending almost every weakened in a different city, Angela had a huge decision to make. It was now 5 years she was out in CA playing on the AVP and there were many emails going around about the dire financial state of the AVP. They were talking about not having a 2010 season and hearing information, Angela made the decision to move back to CO. “I always prayed that when it was time to leave, that God would give me the peace to be okay leaving. This past year, I put every minute I had into training, all the money I had to travel and play, and I can now walk away knowing I did everything I could. I loved following my dream and if there isn’t a season, I want to be back in CO. It’s surreal to think of all the things I was able to do while playing out in CA, but I miss all my friends, living in Colorado and ready to be back there.” So Angela packed up her things, rented a u-haul and pulled back into Colorado November of 2009 not knowing what her future held.
Angela put all her time and focus into starting her two companies in Fort Collins that she still currently runs. She owns a tutoring company (www.high5tutoring.com), which helps students improve in school. “I love tutoring because I can really connect with the students and help them realize they can be successful in school!” She also runs a volleyball business full of clinics, consulting and running private volleyball lessons. “I never thought that all the experiences I went through, teammates, coaches, injuries, rejection, losses, victories, would make me the coach I am today and be able to help and relate to most of the kids that walk into my gym. I love helping kids reach their potential as athletes and understand this game I love so much!
With “retirement” you think that Angela would actually take a break from playing, but even though she is not training, she still has won many local CO volleyball tournaments, and in the summer of 2011 she flew to compete in England’s professional beach volleyball tournament. And yes, Angela won the entire tournament, so it’s safe to say she still can play!