THE QUALIFIER -- Jean Mathews

Jean Mathews is that rare breed of

THE QUALIFIER -- Jean Mathews

business development;
semipro volleyball player
BIRTHPLACE: Berkeley, California
RESIDENCE: Hermosa Beach, California
HEIGHT: 5'8"
WEIGHT: 130 pounds

The 5'8" USC graduate and her partner usually spend their weekends vying with 50—60 other teams for the six or eight spots available each tournament to qualifiers (technically, she's a semipro player).

"I'm playing against gals who come from the top Division 1 teams of this country," she says. "So sometimes I have to bring an element of surprise or be a little unconventional or try to outsmart them," which for this Cornell MBA, who works full time in business development for a major entertainment studio, is often her best tactic. Still, sometimes all the intelligence in the world can't close the gap that separates the best from those nipping at their heels. Nevertheless, Mathews keeps digging. "I get up 6:30 a.m. to do drills once or twice a week," she says. "I play both days on the weekend. I go to the gym several times a week after work. It's close to a part-time job, but it's my passionate hobby. I love the game."