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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Not Your Average UMass Boston Student Athlete


Illustration by S.K.

To say that Frana Burtness-Adams is unique would be an understatement. She doesn’t seem different than anyone else, just a normal UMB sophomore who happens to play volleyball. As you begin speaking to her, you notice that she is not what you would expect as a UMass Boston student, let alone captain of the volleyball team. The first thing that makes her different is that she is from very far away. Not Texas, not California or even Hawaii. Burtness-Adams is from Fairbanks, Alaska – that far away. Alaska would not be your first thought of a hotbed of volleyball talent. Adams was born in a village of less than five hundred people, which was only accessible by plane. Needless to say volleyball was not on her radar, even after she moved to Fairbanks at age ten.

“Hockey is the big girl’s sport in Alaska,” Burtness-Adams said. “I never played it but volleyball had much less focus in my school”.

That was never a deterrent, and did not prevent Burtness-Adams from becoming the best player on her team. Volleyball was popular and successful at Austin E. Lathrop high school, which had around 1200 students. Fairbanks is a fairly developed portion of Alaska, known more for its wildlife and harsh weather than its athletics. There are also not many Alaskans at UMass Boston, period. It’s a miracle Frana even knew this place existed, let alone wanted to come play volleyball here. To be able to play volleyball in Alaska, especially in the off-season, proves her dedication to the sport. With only one club team in the entire state, Frana had to fly 350 miles to Anchorage every other weekend, which she did her junior and senior year.

Another way in which Frana was dedicated is how hard she worked to get schools to notice her. As you can imagine, college recruiters don’t often make trips to Fairbanks Alaska; so Frana decided to make game tapes, which were sent to more than 100 schools. Most schools did not reply, but her hard work paid off when UMass Boston coach Terry Condon asked Burtness-Adams for another tape. After seeing Burtness-Adams tape, Condon invited her down to check out the Beacon campus.

“Terry was great, she really made me feel comfortable here and after I visited here I knew it was the right choice,” quoted Burtness-Adams.

Frana felt very strongly about going to Boston, so much so she turned down an offer from her hometown school (University of Alaska Fairbanks) to come here.

“I don’t think I’ll return to Alaska,” Burtness-Adams said. “I mean I’ll see my friends and family, but I don’t think I’ll live there for the rest of my life. I really love to travel and like being in a city and Alaska doesn’t have a lot of those”.

Burtness-Adams is very loved by her teammates, who voted her captain at the end of last year.

“I’m glad my team thought that highly of me,” Burtness-Adams said. “It’s very humbling and I appreciate it so much.”

Frana is now a captain in her second year on a very good Lady Beacons team that is 20-2 so far. The Lady Beacons are once again looking like serious contenders for the Little East title. A unique quality about the team is just how many players come in from out of state.

Interestingly enough, Burtness-Adams is not alone in the far from home category. Only three players on the team are from Massachusetts. The team has four players from California, two from Colorado, two from Nevada, and one from Illinois.