Winning one Division I National Championship is a feat in and of itself. The Cal State Fullerton dance team has now won 16 as of Jan. 15, notching its eighth consecutive title after finishing first place in Division I Jazz at the UDA/UCA National Championships in Orlando, Fla.
“I was just like ‘Wow, we did it.’ I was just ecstatic. As a coach, I knew that this was a national championship routine. I knew we had what it took to be No. 1,” said Head Coach Jennie Volkert.
Even armed with confidence, the Titans’ dominant streak came with major pressure. Unlike some sports, dance teams cannot completely control their success. A group of judges control the final outcome.
“I always tell the girls that Cal State Fullerton has a different type of score sheet, and with that, they expect perfection, they expect our difficulty and skills and tricks to be through the roof,” Volkert said. “Whereas other teams, they can come in with just a nice, clean, mediocre routine … But for us, we have to be off the charts.”
The CSUF dance team dedicated an immense amount of time and effort to perfect its skills and routine going into last weekend’s competition, including only taking four days off over winter break before returning to practice, said senior captain Nicole Erickson.
With both men’s and women’s basketball teams still in action over the break as well, the dance team had to plan its practices around the basketball schedule. This meant practices until midnight or beginning at 6 a.m. at Titan Gym.
“It really just validates all that hard work you put in,” said Erickson. “It just makes the win that much sweeter since it was something that we worked so hard for.”
As a senior, Erickson has walked away at the end of all four seasons hoisting a national championship trophy.
“It’s crazy after being on the team for four years, the feeling never gets old and it’s still just as humbling and exciting as the first time,” Erickson said.
For the freshmen, being a part of a national powerhouse team can be a daunting task.
“It’s so stressful because I had four freshmen this year and you never want to be the group of freshmen that loses it for the team. Even though it takes an entire team to make it happen, they automatically feel that pressure,” Volkert said. “As freshmen when they come in, they’re not national champions. The other girls on the team that returned, they are national champions.”
Because Fullerton performed first in the competition, it was a long wait to find out if they had successfully defended its title for the eighth consecutive year. Eventually, it came down to the final two teams: Cal State Fullerton and Hofstra University from New York.
“As soon as I heard them say the words ‘New York,’ instantly tears took over all of us. We were all crying and we held hands for a little bit longer and waited for them to announce our name,” Erickson said. “As soon as they said ‘Cal State Fullerton are your national champions,’ we all stood up, jumped up and down, hugged each other.”