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Justin Carroll leaves behind legacy of love, kindness and competitiveness

Justin Carroll (11), pictured here during his time with the Nevada Union volleyball team, died Monday at the age of 27.
Submitted photo

Somewhere in heaven there is a huge volleyball match today.

There is a new player. He is adorned in a Nevada Union jersey. He will have a big smile on his face. It will usher in a new era in the Pearly Gates. St. Peter will ask his name. He will respond, “My name is Justin Carroll but they call me ‘The Hammer’.” He will be free from pain or ailment. Carroll will hit like never before. He will carry on the legacy he began here on earth.

Justin Carroll was 27. He hailed from Grass Valley. On Monday he suffered a major epileptic seizure. Despite valiant attempts, he could not be resuscitated. He passed leaving a marked history behind.



Carroll was part of a band of men who ushered in the golden era of Nevada Union boys volleyball. You would find him in the front row causing havoc and mayhem for his opponents. Carroll was a strong, focused competitor. He played with intensity and brilliance. There was a style to his game that was unique.

In 2009, he recorded more than 500 league kills as the team cut a swath through the Sierra Foothill League, helping to orchestrate a season in which Nevada Union would be nationally ranked. The team would go on to claim the league championship and compete in the first ever Sac-Joaquin Section boys volleyball championship. Carroll was in a cadre of players who ushered in great success. He did it with great poise and an effective right arm. He was a terror who made each player on the team better. He made many contributions both on and off the court.




His death, at such a young age, left the NU volleyball community saddened and shocked.

“No matter where he was, he was most passionate about sports,” said Mallory Castles, one of Carroll’s closest friends. “He was happiest on the court and always gave 110 percent. He would lay it all out there.”

One of the team cogs was libero Jason Adams. He remained close with Carroll long after their playing days. However, he could not help but reminisce about those days a decade ago when they both starred for Nevada Union. He said, “Once he was on the court, he zoned in. He was able to channel his skills at something in which he was exceptional. I see him as a key figure who changed things at NU. It is really hard to see someone who you care for die so suddenly.”

These days are tough for his mother, Annette Carroll. She struggles with Justin’s passing. Through tears she discussed his passion, how much he loved his teammates, and how his Nevada Union volleyball seasons were the best days of his life.

“He would get so intense. I loved watching him play. He held onto a lot of memories that never went away,” she said.

It will be an impossible void to fill. He would often text her just to say “I love you, your #1 fan.” At times, Annette saw him as bigger than life. Why wouldn’t she? He was a son who brought so much happiness and accomplishment to the family’s lives.

Carroll moved on to play for the Northern California Volleyball Club. He also excelled on this stage. It took him to the Junior Olympics and tournaments throughout the country. He loved to travel, especially if it meant playing volleyball. He was as integral a part on this team as he was at NU. It also taught him discipline and helped him truly hone his skills. Carroll loved the success it brought. However, he shied away from notoriety. He would rather focus on team play and their contributions as a whole. He did it for the fun and competition that the sport brought him.

Throughout his journey, a person always at his side was coach Marco Salcedo. It was somewhat a mentoring experience for Salcedo. He taught him much about competition and adulthood. Salcedo contributed greatly to who he was and the outstanding team member he would become.

“He was the heart of that 2009 Nevada Union group,” Salcedo said. “He put NU on the map as one of the elite volleyball teams in California. He did his job every day. I relied upon him. He had a very high IQ. He was a hard hitter. He started hitting his mark. It was kill, kill, kill. He became a real outside hitter with power.”

Local leader Dan Castles contributed greatly to Carroll’s life and volleyball career. They spent countless hours together. Castles invested much energy in developing Carroll as a player and man. He was one of the cornerstones of Carroll’s life along with wife Joanne.

“He was a quiet kid in a key, giving way,” Castles said. “He had a way at putting people at ease. He got along with everyone. His personality allowed him to do well. Justin helped define Northern California Boys volleyball.”

Sister Jennie Carroll spoke of how teammates Luke Parker, Jason Adams, and Tyler Salcedo were a part of him. She added, “He was loyal, giving, and cared. He made me a better person.”

Justin Carroll was someone who passes your way once-in-a-lifetime. Yes, he passed way too soon. He deserved a better fate. However, he reminds us of the mark one can make in life in even a short period. He was truly one of those figures never to be forgotten. He leaves behind a rich heritage of great accomplishment. He epitomized those who stay loyal to Nevada Union. He was a family man who valued his parents, sister and friends. It is truly sad to see him go. However, the memories that he leaves behind are outstanding.

Hug your children a little harder tonight as you never know what the future might bring.

As Jennie concluded, “He left us happy.”

Jim Adams is a regular contributor to The Union. He is the father of Jason Adams, who is quoted in the story. Jim can be reached at adamses@inreach.com.


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