South Louisiana has produced many great athletes, but very few have been able to have the privilege to say they are professionals at their respective sports.
One of the elite professional athletes from our region today is Quincy Verdin, a professional volleyball player from Central Catholic High School in Morgan City.
Most of us remember former Assumption High School star volleyball player Kim Willoughby, who was a three-time college All-American, the 2003 NCAA National Player of the Year and a member of the 2008 United States Olympic squad.
But Verdin is one of the few women from Louisiana to be playing professional volleyball overseas.
Verdin has been a professional volleyball player for the past four years playing in Slovenia, Slovakia and in Finland for two years.
Many in our area remember Verdin as the catalyst that led the Central Catholic volleyball team to its first ever state championship in volleyball when she was a junior defeating Episcopal School of Acadiana for the Class 1A state title match.
“Really ESA was to woman’s volleyball like John Curtis is to football in the state of Louisiana,” Verdin said. “The feeling in the moments leading up to our championship was something that still gives me chills today. To know all our hard work and dedication would have us win a state championship and do it against the most dominant team in volleyball was just so special.”
Not only was Verdin a star volleyball player, but she was also a top basketball performer and track and field athlete, who competed in the high jump, long jump, triple jump, discus, javelin and shot put.
“I guess I was born with really good athletic genes. I was also the most competitive one in the family too. It didn’t matter what I did. If it was playing games as a kid or running or anything I was up against someone I had to win. My Mom, Debbie, was a terrific tennis player, my Dad, Clyde Sr., was an outstanding basketball player, my brother, Clyde, was a tremendous basketball player and baseball athlete and everyone knows my cousin, Clarence Verdin, who was a great track athlete, and he played over 10 seasons in the NFL as a wide receiver and return man. I was offered college scholarships in track and also basketball, but I grew to love volleyball so much.”
The very competitive Verdin, who earned All-American honors in volleyball as a junior and senior, had over 30 scholarship offers and narrowed her selections to LSU, Nebraska, Penn State, Missouri and Minnesota, until an unexpected visit came from the head coach of Long Beach State in California.
“I had verbally committed to play for LSU as a ninth grader and had no idea that Long Beach State was interested. Volleyball is huge in California. You look at those teams like Long Beach, Stanford, USC, UCLA and even Pepperdine, and they are really the top of the field in volleyball. I was playing in a club volleyball tournament in New Orleans and the head coach at Long Beach State, Brian Gimmillaro, came over and introduced himself and told me he was very impressed with my game, and he extended a scholarship offer to me. He had traveled there to watch me play, and I was stunned. This school had such a great reputation for producing great volleyball teams and also players like Danielle Scott and Misty May that were Olympic athletes. I couldn’t tell him no. So I changed my mind and headed out West instead of Baton Rouge.”
Verdin was not expected to play as a true freshman for Long Beach State, but it didn’t take long for Gimmillaro to see that she could take her talent to another level.
“I really thought they were going to redshirt me, and during one of the early games, I still had my warm-up gear on and Coach Brian must have called out for me four or five times until one of my teammates told me he wanted me in the game. He put me in as a freshman, and I never left the lineup after that,” Verdin said. “Coach always called me his “secret weapon” and if we needed a spark or needed a big hit I was the one he counted on to deliver. Playing against those great teams out West where volleyball is so big was a great experience. Here I was someone from south Louisiana playing against the top volleyball players in the country, that was something special.”
In Verdin’s four seasons at Long Beach State the school won the Big West Conference championship all four years and made it into to the NCAA tournament all four years, but one school Verdin couldn’t leap over still stands strong in her mind today.
“We were conference champions all four years. We made it into the playoffs all four years, and we got bounced out of the playoffs all four years in the second round,” Verdin said. “It still bothers me today because we knew we had the talent to win it all, but we broke down a couple of times late and it cost us that chance for the national championship. Along with that, the memory of playing against those Stanford teams stick out for me. They were like six robots out on the court. They were amazing to watch, and I had played against all of those girls in club volleyball, but they were an unbelievable team, and they were six parts moving as one. I will always remember how tough they were to go against and to be honest some of my best games were against the Cardinal.”
After college Verdin worked one season as an assistant for Naomi Washington, currently the head volleyball coach at Southern University of New Orleans, before deciding to pursue a professional volleyball career in Europe.
“I worked with Naomi Washington, who was a terrific volleyball player at Long Beach State also, before I decided to play pro volleyball,” Verdin said. “I had never been overseas before, and it was a bit scary at first, but I adjusted to the places I got to play and the different cultures. I played one season in Slovenia, one season in Slovakia and this will be my third season in Finland. I am playing for a different team this season.”
Verdin said the European game is very competitive.
“It’s very competitive there, and I don’t want to lose my spot, so I work hard at my game and hopefully this could take me to another level of volleyball abroad,” Verdin said. “There is a quota system on the amount of people not from Europe that can be on the volleyball court at the same time and the level of competition here is like the top level of college volleyball in the states. I also have given some consideration to possibly trying out for the next United State Olympic team and so I have some options in the future, but I do know one day I would like to coach. I really enjoy that element of teaching and coaching fundamentals to the sport. We joked about it, but I would love to be an assistant coach and be involved with teaching. I know one day I want to be a head coach in either high school or college. “
Verdin says that volleyball is looked at as an upper-tier sport in Europe.
“In the states it is football, basketball and baseball. In Europe soccer and hockey are the two most prominent sports, but volleyball is looked at right there behind those two along with track and field,” she said. “It’s huge there and in breaks during games they have those sideline reporters come up and ask for comments just like they do in football and basketball in the states. But I really believe because of the real upswing in people’s interest in beach volleyball that the sport is getting a lot more interest in the United States. Also places like Nebraska, who have won back to back national championships in volleyball and also what is happening at the University of Texas has given the sport a lot more interest to so many more people here.“
Verdin did say she misses the food and entertainment of the states and in particular south Louisiana.
“Oh my God. I miss the food so much,” Verdin added. “I lose 20 pounds without even trying when I go back to Europe. And it is a long season. We start practicing in late July and our season lasts from August all the way until April, and it is playing two to three games per week. But I do try to bring some things to eat and cook with from Louisiana. The entertainment is different also. They have television, but it is difficult to find something you like, and there are subtitles, but I spend most of my little spare time on the Internet. With the travel and practice it is very demanding, but I enjoy the sport so much, so it is worth it, and the financial part of playing is pretty good also. I would really like to be a part of something to bring more awareness to volleyball in the states and in particular to Louisiana. One day when my playing days are over with I would love to return to coach either in California or back in Louisiana.”