Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - March 30, 2012

In Memoriam: Stanford volleyball player Sam Wopat, 19

by Keith Peters and Rick Eymer

It was only last summer that Samantha (Sam) Wopat was touring China with her teammates on the Stanford women's volleyball team. There were plenty of photos of the team, and Sam, as they toured.

It was an enjoyable time, one that the team will cherish following Wopat's unexpected death last weekend.

Wopat, 19, died Sunday following a week- long battle after a medical emergency in her Stanford residence, the university announced Monday.

Wopat, surrounded by family, friends and teammates, was hospitalized on Saturday, March 17, and remained in the intensive care unit of Stanford Hospital until her death. The cause of death is currently not known.

"We are deeply saddened by the passing of Sam Wopat," Stanford athletic director Bob Bowlsby said. "She was an integral member of the Stanford Athletics family and a tremendous student and athlete. On behalf of our administration, coaches and students I extend my condolences to Sam's siblings, parents, relatives and friends. Stanford University and the women's volleyball program have lost a wonderful young woman."

Wopat joined the Stanford women's volleyball team in 2010, along with her twin sister, Carly, and excelled as an outside hitter. Sam appeared in 25 sets as a sophomore and averaged 1.16 kills per set. As a freshman, she saw action in 11 sets and registered a .571 season hitting percentage.

Said Stanford women's coach John Dunning, who was obviously shocked by the news: "I can't imagine what they're (the Wopat family) is going through," he said in a TV interview on Monday. "Her sister (Carly) has been amazingly strong."

Dunning said his women's volleyball team was to begin spring practice this week, but that had been delayed due to Wopat's death.

Added Stanford women's basketball coach Tara VanDerveer: ""When things happen . . . We dealt with it directly with our team. We remind the team that if you get into a situation where you feel so overwhelmed, we're here for you."

Prior to enrolling at Stanford, Wopat was a member of the 2010 U.S. Women's Junior National Team. In 2009, she participated in Thailand as a member of the U.S. Youth National Team that competed at the World Championships. She was a member of Junior Olympic teams in 2006, 2007 and 2008.

Information about a memorial to celebrate Wopat's life will be shared as it becomes available.

Samantha Alohilani Wopat was born on Oct. 13, 1992 in Santa Barbara. She was a 2010 graduate of Dos Pueblos High School in Goleta, where she lettered in volleyball, track and field and basketball. She and her sister were both named the 2010 Dos Pueblos High School Top Female Athlete.

"The Dos Pueblos family is heartbroken over the passing of Sam Wopat," Dan Feldhaus, the high school athletic director, told the Santa Barbara Independent. "She was a great athlete, a great person, and a role model. Our sympathies go out to the Wopat family."

As a senior, Wopat led her team in kills and aces. She helped lead the team to the CIF Division 1A Southern California title. She was considered one of the nation's top volleyball players in PrepVolleyball's Senior Aces rankings. In 2009, she was named a PreVolleyball High School All-American and a Volleyball Magazine Second Team All-American.

She also played for the Santa Barbara Volleyball Club, which won the 2010 Southern California Junior National Qualifier.

Wopat is survived by her parents, Ron and Kathy Wopat of Santa Barbara, her twin sister, Carly, who is also a member of the Stanford women's volleyball team; and two younger brothers, Jackson and Eli.

According to a post on "Volley Talk," there were cards supporting Wopat at the Stanford men's volleyball alumni match in Maples Pavilion on Saturday. A tree on campus has been decorated with cards and other items remembering Wopat.

Reaction on her death included the following comments:

"This is an unbelievable loss. My condolences to the Wopat and Stanford families. Simply unbelievable . . . This is so sad. I can't stop thinking about her, she was too young. Life is so unfair sometimes . . . My stomach literally just dropped. So devastating to hear. Sending lots of positive vibes to her family/friends . . . Our small volleyball community has lost a beautiful and gentle soul . . . We are truly heartbroken over this devastating and unfathomable tragedy and send our deepest condolences to the Wopat family, the Stanford volleyball players and program and the closely-knit Santa Barbara/Dos Pueblos volleyball communities. You have lost a wonderful person; may her light continue to shine through all of you . . . As a member of the Stanford Volleyball family, it breaks my heart that we have lost such a talented young woman. My heart goes out to her family, her teammates, her coaches, her friends and most of all to her twin sister, Carly. Prayers for all."

Comments

Posted by John R. Grout, a resident of another community
on Mar 26, 2012 at 10:19 am

An unimaginable tragedy. My prayers go out to the family and her teammates.


Posted by randy albin, a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 26, 2012 at 10:34 am

what a shame. stanford volleyball teams through the years have been outstanding. coach don shaw and the odom sisters were on really good teams. i have certainly been a volleyball season ticket holder through the years. best wishes go out to these athletes and may those who have passed away be remembered well


Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 26, 2012 at 10:38 am

What a tragic loss! Our thoughts and prayers are with this young woman's family.


Posted by Concern, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 26, 2012 at 1:20 pm

This is a very sad event and my sympathies to the family and friends of this young woman.

I wonder if this medical emergency had anything to do with the fact that she was a top athlete. There was recently a very serious incident in Britain with a top soccer player aged 23 collapsing on the field during a game with a heart attack. Web Link Are young athletes being given enough medical support while they drive their bodies so hard to keep them ahead in their chosen sport?


Posted by overdone, a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Mar 26, 2012 at 4:06 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Member of the Stanford community., a resident of Stanford
on Mar 26, 2012 at 4:21 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] [P]lease don't second guess her training or other things that may or may not have had any influence. Allow the family and her team and her friends to grieve without judgment here.


Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 26, 2012 at 4:55 pm


RIP and condolences to the family.


Posted by Alphonso, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Mar 26, 2012 at 9:10 pm

At some point I hope people can reflect on whatever happened. Life is not always easy and it helps to learn something from the experienes of others.


Posted by iceman4444, a resident of another community
on Mar 26, 2012 at 10:21 pm

Read the room. A sweet, young life is lost and it's not our role to judge or dig up dirt.

Allow all those involved to deal with one of the worst tragedies a person can face.

RIP to Sam and thoughts and prayers to all involved. :(


Posted by David, a resident of Stanford
on Mar 27, 2012 at 5:31 am

In the midst of this tragic situation, my heart goes out to Sam Wopat's family, particularly her parents and twin sister.


Posted by Shaila, a resident of Southgate
on Mar 27, 2012 at 11:27 am

Our hearts go out to Samantha's family. Even though we never met Samantha, we feel a special connection because one year ago, on St Patrick's Day, our 24-year-old daughter, Priya, was hospitalized and died a week later on March 25th. Life is so unpredictable and unfair. We hope that, in time, the happy memories of your beloved daughter will outshine the grief and sorrow that overwhelm you now.


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 27, 2012 at 1:24 pm

I, too, am so sorry for Sam & her loved ones. Shaila, I am very sorry for your loss, as well. It's always a shock to learn a young person has died. The sudden lack of their vitality is unnatural & heartbreaking. I wish I had something wise to say, but I don't. My best wishes to her family & friends - so many of us have been in your shoes, so we understand.


Posted by Nora Charles, a resident of Stanford
on Mar 27, 2012 at 8:30 pm

Terribly sad news. Condolences to her family, friends, and teammates.


Posted by klesb, a resident of another community
on Mar 27, 2012 at 9:32 pm

R.I.P Samantha.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by sam, a resident of another community
on Mar 28, 2012 at 12:41 am

God bless her soul.


Posted by betty blue, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 28, 2012 at 7:26 pm

This is so sad..Such a young kid that had so much to live for.


Posted by betty blue, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 29, 2012 at 5:49 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.