Justin Vital Receives Defensive Player of the Year in Cal Pac Conference

By Ally Romanes on May 22, 2024

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Captain of Pacific Union College’s men’s volleyball team, Justin Vital, received the 2023-2024 Defensive Player of the Year in the California Pacific Conference. This season, he was named First Team All-Conference, averaged 3.49 digs per set (#1 in conference), and totaled 181 digs in 15 season games. Vital was also Nationally Ranked #3 in digs per set in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).

“This recognition is an absolute honor,” said Vital. “I receive this award with gratitude and see it as the fruits of the work, grit, and relentlessness I strived to exemplify throughout my college career. The standard of consistency and discipline I set for myself preparing for this season helped me reach this honor. Being recognized as the top libero and defensive player in Cal Pac truly feels surreal.”

Growing up in Miami, Florida, Vital started playing volleyball as a highschool freshman at Greater Miami Adventist Academy and continued on to attend PUC, where he is finishing up his degree in business administration with a healthcare emphasis.

“I chose PUC because of the values the college upholds, as well as the academic programs and the ability for me to play volleyball at one of the highest levels,” shared Vital. “As an Adventist, it was important for me to join a college that represented the same values that I believed in. PUC exemplifying those beliefs and having a high academic and athletic standard helped me choose PUC over any other.”

He joined the Pioneers as the first recruit for the men’s volleyball team in the inaugural 2020 season, and this year, closed out his four-year collegiate volleyball career. Vital credits much of his achievement to the team’s support, emphasizing that it meant the world to him seeing his teammates' excitement when he received Defensive Player of the Year. When he moves on from PUC, he will miss his friends, teammates, and coaching staff—who he calls his “family.”

As team captain, Vital described himself as a servant leader who leads by example. He endeavored to empower and inspire those around him, whether on or off the court. Vital felt it was his responsibility to set the tone and expectations of the team's culture and norms—he believed he could best achieve this through leading by example. 

Vital hopes his teammates learned his relentlessness and discipline to become better. He uses “consistent” to sum up his college career, and said this attitude is what he hoped to exemplify during each practice and game and is the mark he hopes to leave upon his PUC departure in June.

Vital explained that PUC taught him about his own strength. “Coming into PUC, I did not think I could amount to the level that the competition was competing at,” he said. “I felt that I was behind and that success was out of reach. Throughout my time at PUC, I learned that, through discipline and consistency, I was stronger than I thought, and this attitude helped me achieve things I could only dream about.”