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‘Don’t do what’s just easier’: Desiree Becker balances volleyball, law

(Kaylen Ho/Daily Bruin)

By Nicole Augusta

Dec. 6, 2023 7:29 p.m.

This post was updated Dec. 6 at 9:34 p.m.

Desiree Becker rises before the sun most days.

“I wake up at 6 a.m., rush to put clothes on, leave the house by 6:15,” the middle blocker said. “Walk – because I don’t like to pay for parking in parking lots, and it’s also literally a 15-minute walk. So I’m like, ‘Let me not be lazy.’”

But anyone who knows the graduate student would disqualify the word “lazy” from her vocabulary.

Ever the Renaissance woman, Becker constantly proves her ability to keep all her balls in the air.

Less than a year ago, she left the familiarity of Northwestern behind to achieve her ultimate dream of playing for UCLA women’s volleyball, where, by the season’s end, she had appeared in all 118 sets to lead the team in blocks.

“It (playing for UCLA) still doesn’t even sink in – it’s so, so, so wild,” Becker said. “I try to have gratitude for it, but I still feel like I don’t realize the scope of how crazy it actually is.”

Although the time for the transfer student to hang up her blue and gold jersey is drawing near, she won’t be pulling the reins back on her academic pursuits at UCLA just yet.

(Shane Yu/Daily Bruin staff)
Desiree Becker elevates to meet the ball. The graduate student middle blocker led the Bruins in blocks this year with 136 – but volleyball isn’t all she can do. (Shane Yu/Daily Bruin staff)

Becker’s invite to grace Pauley Pavilion as a volleyball player came alongside the opportunity for her to obtain a master of legal studies. Considering Becker’s ultimate goal of becoming an entertainment lawyer, the choice to study in Los Angeles was a no-brainer.

“Corporate law doesn’t necessarily have the same ring to it as entertainment does,” Becker said with a smile.

In reality, Becker has always had a passion for the arts. Though she hails from an athletic family – none of whom surpass her 6-foot-2 stature – her childhood was strewn with paint, crayons and markers, both at home and school.

But Becker’s career path wasn’t always so clear. In fact, it wasn’t until a few years ago, when she took a course for her undergraduate environmental policy minor, that Becker realized the intersection the law could create between her nonacademic interests. Eventually, in tandem with her history studies, the translatable skills of document investigation contributed to her fascination with the nuances of inquiry.

“In the class, we talked about international treaties a lot, and how one word in a treaty – or just a few phrases – can drastically change the meaning,” Becker said. “That level of legal analysis I found to be really interesting.”

While Becker supplied a laugh as to her strategies for managing everything, assistant coach Amir Lugo-Rodriguez dismissed her humility with a credit to her diligence.

“Sometimes people feel the need to have to do more because they weren’t necessarily present in whatever tasks they were doing,” Lugo-Rodriguez said. “One thing that helps Des out is just how intentional she is at everything.”

Becker’s transition to the West Coast also served as a reunion, as Lugo-Rodriguez had coached her as a Wildcat. He knew of her dream to represent the Bruins, and upon his hiring at UCLA for the 2023 season, Becker was one of his first calls.

(Daily Bruin file photo, Jeremy Chen/Daily Bruin senior staff)
Graduate student middle blocker Desiree Becker (left) pounds a kill. Her assistant coach Amir Lugo-Rodriguez (right) watches the floor during a game. (Daily Bruin file photo, Jeremy Chen/Daily Bruin senior staff)

“I can’t stress enough how great of an overall human being, how caring she is, how much she cares about this program here at UCLA, how much she cares about her teammates,” Lugo-Rodriguez said. “(She’s) been a great example to some of the younger players on how to carry yourself and also how to care and show investment into something that you love.”

With the new jersey came a redefined perception of Becker’s role as a teammate. Her newly appointed mentorship role lent her the confidence to voice advice and opinions for the first time – and feel valued by her team and coaches for doing so.

Becker’s steady presence on court contrasts with fellow middle blocker redshirt senior Anna Dodson and her self-proclaimed “fiery” personality, but the two formed a powerful presence on the front row this season as the conference’s No. 1 blocking duo.

“I love Des. She’s honestly one of my best friends on the team, and it’s such a great opportunity to have someone come in that is so like-minded,” Dodson said. “We became very close as fifth-years, and I always trust her.”

In retrospect, Becker was never overly reliant on the grail of playing collegiate volleyball. In fact, only in her junior year of high school did she commit to don the Wildcat jersey – late compared to her teammates at the time.

While her path has not always been clear, the multifaceted virtuoso credits self-belief and dedication to the direction in which she has paved it.

“In life, do what you are passionate about and care about,” Becker said. “Don’t do what’s just easier.”

Breaching her comfort zone in the way she did this past year aligns with what Becker referred to as her “down for anything” personality, but it was also rooted in her passions beyond the walls of Pauley Pavilion.

“Social justice is really important to me. LGBT issues are really important to me, too,” Becker said. “I care about what goes on in the world – it’s not just volleyball, school and that’s it, cut off.”

And whether she remains a Bruin or pens her narrative elsewhere, Lugo-Rodriguez said the ripples of Becker’s impact on the program will be felt for a while.

“We’ll probably be talking about Des for the next couple of years to come,” he said.

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Nicole Augusta
Augusta is a 2023-2024 Slot editor and Sports senior staff member on the softball beat. She was previously a Copy and Sports contributor on the women's volleyball beat. She is also a third-year human biology and society student.
Augusta is a 2023-2024 Slot editor and Sports senior staff member on the softball beat. She was previously a Copy and Sports contributor on the women's volleyball beat. She is also a third-year human biology and society student.
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