By Walter Villa
READ MORE: Cheers to you, Moms!
Caterina Rosander and her mother have been virtually inseparable for the past 17 years.
Their arguments are rare, and when they happen, they’re brief.
“We’ve never been mad at each other for longer than 10 minutes,” Caterina said of her mom, Renata Rosander, a single mother and a former model. “Whenever my mom and I get frustrated with each other, we’re saying ‘Oh, I love you’ pretty quickly.”
Mom isn’t the only one fond of Caterina. Her volleyball coaches, teammates and quite a few college recruiters have been impressed by the 6-foot-4 junior middle blocker.
Caterina, an only child, recently decided she will head to New York City in 2013 to play her college volleyball at St. John’s, earning a much-needed scholarship and fulfilling her mother’s dream.
Ariel Haas, who is Caterina’s coach at Canyon Crest Academy (San Diego, Calif.), said he has no doubts Caterina will be successful.
“Mentally, she’s a beast,” Haas said. “She’s determined and passionate about being the best. She tries to dominate each time out, whether it’s practice or a game.
“Physically, she’s finally where she needs to be. She has grown into her body. When I met her, she was a tall, skinny, awkward eighth-grader who didn’t know how to connect one movement to the next. But she’s gotten better each year.”
Caterina’s progress -- and the scholarship she has earned -- has vindicated her mother’s decision to move in 2007 from Fresno, Calif., to San Diego, where she felt her daughter would get the right training in volleyball.
Then again, Caterina said Renata has always been a devoted mother, willing to do anything to help her.
“She’s my best friend and the most dedicated and loving person I’ve ever met,” Caterina said. “I can always rely on her.”
Renata, 36, is now an insurance agent. But from age 13 to 20, she did magazine covers and runway work -- she is 6-1 -- and once filmed a commercial for Jordache jeans.
She got married at age 18 and had Caterina one year later.
After the divorce, Renata needed a more stable job. She quit modeling, got a two-year degree from a community college and then moved with her daughter from Maryland to California.
Growing up, Caterina sang in the choir, danced ballet and played soccer. But Renata, seeing her daughter’s height and athletic ability, insisted Caterina play volleyball. Caterina wasn’t a big fan of the sport at first but started enjoying it more and more each time out. By sixth grade, it was her primary extracurricular activity.
A turning point came in her sophomore year, when she made varsity for the first time, and Haas had a brief but impactful conversation with his young middle blocker.
“I asked her: ‘Do you want to play in college?’ ” Haas said. “She said, ‘Absolutely, I need to get a scholarship for me to make it work financially.’ ”
Haas pointed her in the direction of his star senior, Samantha Cash, who is now at Pepperdine. The coach instructed Caterina to watch and learn from Cash.
Last year, after Cash had graduated, Caterina became a co-captain.
“Samantha was a very hard worker, and that mentality rubbed off on Caterina,” Haas said. “She went from being feeble, quiet and reserved to blossoming into this aggressive player who wants to be set every time.
“As a captain, she took on the role of butt-kicker. She had to learn how to be demanding of her teammates without irritating or alienating her peers. She’s learned to push her teammates even when they don’t want to be pushed.”
Renata said her daughter’s determination to earn a scholarship is not a surprise.
“She knows I have a tight budget as a single mom,” Renata said. “While a lot of people around here drive Porsches, we make do with one car, and it’s a 2005 SUV with 110,000 miles. We go everywhere in that car.”
In spite of the financial struggles, Renata said she is grateful for the opportunity to raise her daughter in her own way.
Caterina has a 3.5 GPA and wants to study international relations and diplomatic affairs at St. John’s. She also had interest from Yale and Dartmouth, among others.
“People have asked me if I will move out to New York,” Renata said. “But, no, I have my job out here and I’m looking forward to having some free time.
“It’s been very rewarding. She has turned out to be a lovely, awesome girl, and that’s the best Mother’s Day present I could ever receive.”