And she has been giving her all since high school, where she not only led her volleyball team to a CIF Championship, but was also a league MVP-winning basketball player. Originally intending to play only for the love of the game, the Notre Dame High School standout started to garner accolades and local recognition during her junior and senior year.
“It’s funny because I never thought of playing sports in college,” she said.” I just wanted to focus on school, then senior year we won CIF and I got ‘Player of the Year.’ So I thought, ‘I guess I’ll keep going. I’m pretty good at it.’”
Because she didn’t play club or travel volleyball, Vialpando had to start her collegiate career at Riverside Community College; however, the move only intensified her motivation as she led the Tigers to the first round of the playoffs while picking up another league MVP award along the way. Her relentless persistence on and off the court was rewarded as several colleges started to take interest in Vialpando before she accepted a full ride scholarship to UC Riverside.
“I’ve always had that determination with volleyball,” she stated. “It’s just something that I love playing. When you love something, you want to be surrounded by it all the time. I was determined to get a [scholarship] and that’s what I got. Hard work pays off.”
For the next three years the outside hitter continued to do what she loved: play volleyball, but not without a steady stream of bean and cheese burritos at halftime. Her parents, who went to nearly every game, would search around cities for their daughter’s adored gametime snack.
“Every game at halftime, I would look for my dad in the stands and he would give me a bag of [burritos],” she joked. “I need food during the game. I just get hungry.”
While her hunger grew during intermission, her game blossomed on court. In 2011 the Highlander star was named to the Big West Conference First Team, which is awarded to the best players of the league each season, and she also led UC Riverside in total kills, digs and points. In 2012 she anchored a team plagued by injuries and was named to the Big West Conference Honorable Mention team.
After playing her final college match against Hawai’i in front of 7,000 fans, Vialpando ended her UCR career. But don’t expect her to hang up the knee-pads just yet. A global studies major, the senior plans to play professionally in either Spain or Italy after her graduation. Exploring new cultures and languages are not the only things she looks forward to in Europe. Vialpando also hopes to find new fashion trends and ideas with dreams of owning her own fashion line with her mother.
“Europe is great for fashion,” she added.” So while I’m playing volleyball, I can grab ideas to bring back… when I start my fashion line [in the U.S.].”
From Riverside to Rome, Vialpando will use the same determination and drive she developed while playing sports in the United States to continue her lifelong ambition on the other side of the world.
“I’m just an athlete that loves to play sports,” she said.