In some respects, Rachel Biornstad is in a class all by herself.
The formidable middle blocker on Seattle Pacific's tournament-bound volleyball team has a can-do attitude that has helped her team reach new heights on the court and put her way ahead of the game in the classroom.
Before starting her third season with the Falcons, Biornstad had already earned her bachelor's degree in computer science. She's now taking graduate classes at night and plans to have her master's work completed by 2008.
"It's been my plan since I was 13 or so," said the Kent native. "I wanted to do Running Start in high school and eventually get my grad degree when everyone else was getting their bachelor's."
By taking courses at Green River Community College while at Kentlake High School, Biornstad got the jump on everyone. She earned her high-school diploma and two-year college degree in the same month, then wore a cap and gown for the SPU commencement as a virtual sophomore.
Being goal-oriented has put Biornstad on the fast track in education and has helped transform Seattle Pacific (23-2) into a regional power, winning 17 straight matches and rising to No. 12 in the nation.
"Rachel's emerged as a leader," said coach Chris Johnson. "She has an aggressive, competitive, ferocious attitude that's just contagious."
Pick of the weekVolleyball
No. 12 Seattle Pacific at Western Washington, Thursday, 7 p.m.
The scoop: SPU has won 26 straight league matches and 17 in a row overall. WWU has won 10 straight and is 6-0 at home.
She ranks among the conference leaders in blocking and hitting percentage.
As for her ability to juggle athletics while proceeding at warp speed in academics, Biornstad said it's a matter of conviction. "If you really want it, you can do it," she said.
Other SPU sports
Men's soccer: Entering its first-round playoff with Cal State L.A. on Thursday, No. 17 SPU (12-6-0) is 10-1 when holding opponents scoreless in the first half. It beat the Golden Eagles 2-0 on a neutral field two months ago.
Women's soccer: SPU seeks to advance to the second round of the NCAA II tourney for the third year in a row.
Cross country: Freshman Jessica Pixler (Eastlake) will suit up for soccer Thursday, then preview the course Friday in Oroville, Calif., with the No. 8 SPU women.
Basketball: The women, coming off their first winning season (14-12) in 12 years, host Australian Institute of Sport at 7 tonight. The men, looking for back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since the early 1970s, face Northwest U. at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Volleyball: The Redhawks play their final home regular-season match vs. No. 22 Central Washington at 7 p.m. Thursday.
Soccer: Both teams play first-round matches Thursday, the women vs. Seattle Pacific at 4:30 p.m., and the men vs. CSU Dominguez Hills at 7.
Volleyball: Senior setter Courtney Thompson (Kentlake) leads the country with 14.96 assists per game and is on pace to set an NCAA career record of 14.65.
Women's soccer: The Huskies, who have won six more games than 2005, host Arizona (7 p.m. Friday) and Arizona State (noon Sunday).
Men's soccer: Sophomore midfielder Raphael Cox (Stadium of Tacoma) is tied for 12th in the nation in assists per game (.50) and is the Pac-10 leader in assists (nine).
Cross country: UW's three top-10 finishers at last weekend's Pac-10 Championships were its highest total since 1993.
Volleyball: Senior co-captain Kelly Rosin (Springfield, Ore.) is fifth on WSU's career kills list with 1,068.
Women's soccer: Junior Brynn Bemis (Coeur d'Alene, Idaho) tied her career high with nine saves Sunday against UCLA, and is 13th in the nation in save percentage at 0.879.
Football: Three seniors are four-year lettermen — free safety Todd McClellan (Timberline of Lacey), offensive tackle Brandon Torrey (Bethel of Graham) and offensive guard Peter Van Datta (Central Kitsap of Silverdale).
Volleyball: Junior libero Courtney Schneider (Snohomish) leads the nation in digs per game at 7.47.
Women's soccer: Western (14-4-1) makes its first NCAA II Far West Regional appearance Thursday (7 p.m.) in a semifinal game against host and top seed UC San Diego (18-1-2), which has a 13-game unbeaten string.
Central Washington: The Wildcats earned their first road North Central Conference football victory against Augustana on Saturday and clinched their fifth consecutive winning season.
Eastern Washington: Sophomore Paul Limpf (Evergreen of Vancouver) and junior Curtis Suver (Tahoma of Covington) placed seventh and eighth, one second apart, at the Big Sky Cross Country Championships on Saturday in Sacramento, Calif.
Evergreen State: The women's soccer team will face top-seeded Concordia on back-to-back weekends as both teams advanced from the Cascade Conference Tournament to the NAIA Region I Tournament.
Gonzaga: The volleyball team broke a 27-match losing streak to Loyola Marymount that dated to the 1992 season.
Northwest: The men's basketball team scored 222 points in two games to open its season against Malaspina in Nanaimo, B.C., last week. The Eagles made 17 three-pointers Friday.
Pacific Lutheran: The Northwest Conference volleyball championship and an automatic NCAA III berth will be decided Friday when PLU (13-1) hosts Linfield (12-2) at 7 p.m.
Puget Sound: The Loggers men's soccer team can clinch the NWC championship with a win in either of two remaining games or with a PLU loss or tie.
Saint Martin's: The men's golf team finished ninth at the Sonoma State Golf Invitational, led by senior Peter Perkins' (Bremerton) ninth place.
Whitman: Senior Sam Clark (Colorado Springs, Colo.) placed ninth at Saturday's NWC cross-country championships in Tacoma, and shaved nearly three minutes off his time as a freshman.
Whitworth: The No. 10 Pirates (8-0) travel to face No. 15 Linfield (5-2) to try to win their first outright conference football title. A victory would make it the first 9-0 Whitworth team since 1959 and '60.
Sports information directors contributed to this notebook.