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Deja Harris sets record for block-assists in a career during final game

Senior+middle+blocker+Deja+Harris+%28right%29+celebrates+with+her+teammates+after+earning+a+point+during+the+Aztecs+five-set+loss+to+Louisiana+on+Sept.+15+at+Peterson+Gym.
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Deja Harris sets record for block-assists in a career during final game

Senior middle blocker Deja Harris (right) celebrates with her teammates after earning a point during the Aztecs five-set loss to Louisiana on Sept. 15 at Peterson Gym.

Senior middle blocker Deja Harris (right) celebrates with her teammates after earning a point during the Aztecs five-set loss to Louisiana on Sept. 15 at Peterson Gym.

Abraham Jewett

Senior middle blocker Deja Harris (right) celebrates with her teammates after earning a point during the Aztecs five-set loss to Louisiana on Sept. 15 at Peterson Gym.

Abraham Jewett

Abraham Jewett

Senior middle blocker Deja Harris (right) celebrates with her teammates after earning a point during the Aztecs five-set loss to Louisiana on Sept. 15 at Peterson Gym.

by Tristi Rodriguez, Staff Writer

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After five years of Aztec Volleyball, senior middle blocker Deja Harris ended her senior night setting a new school record for career block assists against San Jose State University at Peterson Gym on Nov. 17.

Former Aztec Jennifer Miller held the record for 26 years with 480. Harris now sets the bar at 484.

“It’s crazy, it’s exciting,” Harris said. “I wouldn’t have been able to do it without my coaches teaching me the fundamentals because I had no idea how to do that before. I give it to my teammates and my coaches.”

Junior middle blocker Tamia Reeves said Harris deserved the record.

“It’s ecstatic. She is probably the most deserving person,” she said. “She works hard in practice and works hard in games obviously to get that accolate.”

Head coach Deitre Collins-Parker said blocking is something they focused on in Harris’ career.

“I told (Harris) that it’s ironic how when she first came in, she just wanted to hit,” Collins-Parker said. “We spent a lot of time with her really understanding blocking, so for her to go from not being interested in blocking to becoming the best blocker (SDSU) has ever had, it’s a testament to our work together.”

Harris finished the night with a match-best 16 kills along with a .520 hitting percentage.

It doesn’t end there.

Harris’ 147 block assists this season alone rank as the fifth most in a season in SDSU history.

Collins-Parker said once Harris was confident in blocking, she was able to make an impact.

“Blocking is her defense,” she said. “Hitting sometimes is the easy part, blocking is by far the most difficult to teach and the most difficult skill to master. When she made up her mind that she was going to be good at it, she was. She’s one of the most talented athletes to ever come to San Diego State.”

After an intense five-set game that led to a loss against the Spartans, emotions were all over the place in front of a crowd of 564 at Peterson Gym.

After the game, the Aztecs went outside for a quick huddle and came back inside with tears. It took Harris and Collins-Parker a little longer to come back in.

“It’s a special relationship for me and middles because that’s the position that I personally train,” Collins-Parker said. “She was an investment and just seeing her get as good as she could go & now whatever she decides to do in her next life, she’ll be successful because she’s a talented young person. I just had to thank her for taking a chance on San Diego State. She had other options and maybe she could’ve won more somewhere else, but instead she made her name here & that was important to us.”

Harris said she wanted to enjoy her final game, but her main focus was on winning.

“Obviously we didn’t want that outcome but at the end of the day there were no regrets,” she said. “During the plays, I’m going to try and take it to a fun level to release the pressure off the other girls, to encourage them through every single point. For sure there’s the fun times, but then there’s the times where we need to crack down.”

Not only was Harris able to make a contribution on the court, but she was able to have an impact off the court as well.

Reeves said Harris has been a great leader.

“Off the court, way off the court not even related to volleyball, she’s just a really outgoing person,” she said. “She doesn’t really get down easily, and if she does she knows how to pick herself up. Volleyball-wise, she’s really good at coaching us and telling us what to do off the sideline. If she sees our energy’s down, she’s going to tell us.”

Collins-Parker said the team bought into Harris’ leadership.

“She has a voice that the girls listen to. She’s been her 5 years, sometimes I hear her say things that I would say. That doesn’t happen for everybody to be able to do that.”

In an eventful last game of the season with senior night and the accolade, Harris said it didn’t hit her that it was nearly over until the final team huddle.

“When I did my last call, my last cheer, my last ‘Aztecs on 3’ — that hit,” she said. “That was my turning point. I knew that was going to be the last time I was going to call that.”

With a full house, Harris said she doesn’t feel pressure but more love.

“The one thing I wanted to do coming in here was to leave a legacy,” she said. “And for sure all those people that were here proved to me that I accomplished that.”

The full house included Rashaad Penny.

“That’s God right there,” Harris said. “He has such a busy schedule playing for the Seattle Seahawks. He wasn’t able to make any of the games until this last one and out of all of these games, he comes to my senior night. That just put the cherry on top.”

Harris is leaving this season as seventh in the nation with 157 total blocks. In the Mountain West, she is sixth in hitting percentage (.316) and sixth in points per set (3.92), making her the only player in the division to rank inside the top six in both categories.

Despite the impact that Harris has had on the program, SDSU was unable to bring home a championship with her on the roster.

Harris said she realized that wasn’t what was important.

“I thought my entire 5 years I was here was that I had to bring a ring, I had to bring a trophy, a (conference) banner,” she said with tears in her eyes. “But in the end of the day I didn’t have to do that. I brought enough emotion, leadership, and positivity and I think that’s what will last. That’s what the girls will carry on for the rest of the San Diego State Aztec program.

This marked the end of SDSU volleyball for Harris, but she said she’s not quite done with the sport just yet.

“So I don’t want to be done yet,” she said. “There’s a few body, physical things that I need to probably clean up a little bit. But I’m for sure not done. I haven’t reached my peak yet, I don’t believe I have. So I want to step up my game a little bit more, play overseas on a professional team. There’s a few options open that I have not finalized yet but I’m keeping all doors open and whatever happens, happens.”

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