At the age of ten, Poway’s 24-year-old Cassidy Lichtman was already playing club volleyball. “I have been around volleyball since I was born. My mom is a coach and my older brother played, so I was in the gym a lot before I was ever on a team,” she said. She attended Francis Parker High School where she excelled at the sport, being named MVP numerous times. Lichtman also played for San Diego Volleyball Club until she graduated from high school. She then went on to play for Stanford University for four years.

Earlier this year, Lichtman graduated from Stanford with a Bachelor’s in political science and a Masters degree in history.

In 2007, Lichtman played on the US Junior National Team that qualified her for the Junior World Championships. The prestige of that qualification was the beginning of her professional and monumental successes. Just last month she returned from playing in the XVI Pan American games in Guadalajara, Mexico. “Playing in the Pan American Games was incredible. Anytime you get to put on the USA jersey it’s such an honor. It’s humbling to realize that you’re representing an entire nation,” said Lichtman. “The whole team played with a lot of heart and confidence… the bronze medal match was one of the most fun games I’ve played in, and of course, winning that medal was an awesome experience.”

These days, Lichtman lives in Bielsko-Biala, Poland and plays for a professional team in the Polish league (BKS Aluprof Bielsko-Biala). “But whenever I’m in America my real home is in Poway,” said Lichtman.

Despite having the sport in her genes, Lichtman has actually had to overcome some major obstacles. At the age of seven, Litchman woke up one morning to find her legs in so much pain that she was unable to walk. She was forced to use crutches for several months and doctors told her she would never walk again. “I decided to deal with the pain and walk anyway,” said Lichtman. “13 years later, the doctors still don’t know what is wrong…. But [volleyball] is what I love to do so it’s worth whatever extra pain it causes.”

As for the future, Lichtman has her sights on competing in the Rio Olympics in 2016. She also hopes to improve her fluency in the Polish language. “Right now my Polish volleyball vocabulary is pretty solid but my everyday vocabulary could use some work!” Pretty impressive, especially since Lichtman also speaks English, Spanish and Chinese.