Oct. 7, 2011
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Auburn senior volleyball player Kelly Fidero has been one of the hottest hitters in SEC play so far this year. But four years ago this month, volleyball was one of the farthest things from her mind.
On October 20, 2007, wildfires broke out and began burning throughout Southern California. The fires spread across 500,000 acres from Santa Barbara to the U.S.-Mexico border and destroyed at least 1,500 homes. Nine people died while 85 others were injured, including 61 firemen. The fire was so immense that it could be seen from orbiting satellites. Many people fled their homes as evacuations took place.
But Fidero stayed to assist her hometown of Temecula, Calif., a city of more than 100,000 residents about 60 miles north of San Diego.
"The fires caused so much damage to our community," Fidero said. "I remember our school gymnasium being filled with so many families that lost everything. We played with the children and tried to keep them distracted from everything while collecting clothing and toys for them as well. Most of them were too young to fully grasp what was going on, but I remember that a lot of their parents showed great strength in such a terrible time."
For her efforts, she received a certificate of appreciation for community service. It was a small token of gratitude, but the experience provided so much more for her.
"It meant a lot to help," Fidero said. "I learned so much about what's really valuable in life by interacting with people who literally had nothing left but each other."
With the drastic changes in climate and the increase in the heat index, California faces a greater risk of wildfires than ever before, but that is not enough to keep Fidero from getting home to see loved ones.
"I love to go to the beach and to see my family and friends," the senior said.
Fidero is no stranger to helping others. Whether it is performing acts of community service or playing hard for her teammates and coaches, she gives it her all. She realizes that the 2011 version of the Tigers is relatively young compared to some of the top teams that Auburn will be facing this season. But she also knows that this team will be looking to her as well as senior setter Christina Solverson for leadership.
"I provide experience," Fidero said. "I've been in the program a lot longer than some of the girls. I try to set an example as best as I can."
Fidero is a health promotion major and, together with a minor in business, hopes to someday represent elite athletes and possibly the university program as well. She values hard work and believes that the work she puts in on the court spills out into her everyday life which teaches her valuable life lessons. She plays for more than just her teammates, coaches and family. She realizes the fans are just as important. These types of characteristics embody the prototypical Auburn student-athlete.
"I love our school spirit and our tradition," Fidero said. "The fans' energy is contagious. They are the ones we play for, so it's nice to know they have our backs."
Fidero recalls that last season's success was unforgettable and that to build off of that momentum is key in being successful this season as well. Making it to the NCAA Tournament was an experience she will never forget, but securing a victory in the program's first postseason appearance was even more memorable.
"It was an honor," Fidero said. "I put in so much hard work because I love my teammates. So to be able to go out and compete for a possible NCAA title was quite an honor."
The senior is ready to take on the responsibility of being a leader to her teammates, both on and off the court. She is also ready to attack the schedule head-on as she will be looking to amass over 200 kills for the fourth straight year.
That number is well within reach as she leads the Tigers with 175 kills (3.07/set) through 17 matches and now has 819 kills for her career. If she can average 14 kills/match over the Tigers' remaining 13 matches, she could become the 13th member of Auburn's 1,000-kill club.
But foremost on Fidero's mind are the goals of the team - another NCAA Tournament appearance and continued movement up the SEC ladder.
"I want us to keep progressing and to possibly finish higher in the SEC rankings this season," Fidero said. "Maybe we can make it back to the NCAA Tournament and go farther than we did last season."
By Michael Stagno, Auburn media relations