Posted By Press Democrat Staff Writer Michael Coit:

Art was the only college class Keala Peterson didn’t earn an A — an outstanding achievement netting the Sonoma State star the NCAA Division II Academic All-America of the Year for volleyball.

“I feel humbled to get it. I worked extremely hard, but I know many other student athletes out there put in as much time and effort,” said Peterson, a senior out of Analy High.

The Capital One Division II Academic All-America program recognized 18 women’s NCAA Division II scholars with Peterson topping the list. Peterson has a 3.96 grade point average, majoring in psychology with a minor in anthropology.

The honors keep coming for Peterson after helping lead Sonoma State volleyball to the most successful season in school history.

Peterson and teammates Kelsey Hull and Taylor Krenwinkel were named to the 2011 American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Division II All-America team.

Leading the California Collegiate Athletic Association in kills from her outside hitter position, Peterson set school records for kills per set and points per set.

A true all around player, Peterson added 249 digs and 51 blocks this season.

Sonoma State finished 23-7, advancing to the NCAA Division II West Region final for the first time in school history.

“We had a really good run this year,” Peterson said. “They’re all really great girls. It’s fun to play with people who are just willing to work hard and put their head down and just really have fun.”

Off the court, Peterson excelled even while taking a heavy course load to graduate in four years.

“Keala’s unprecedented achievement as a Sonoma State University student-athlete is a result of her commitment to academic excellence and competitive success. She represents what is truly great about college athletics,” said Bill Fusco, Sonoma State director of athletics.

Empire Player of the Year as an Analy senior, Peterson played her first season for UC Davis. While she started often and earned Big West Conference All-Freshman honors, Peterson needed a change.

Peterson attended Kapiolani Community College, in Honolulu, where she has family.

Returning home, Peterson joined the Sonoma State team her sophomore year to play under her longtime club coach Bear Grassl.

“It was kind of a collage of schools, but it all worked. I wouldn’t have had it any other way,” she said.

A top student at Analy, Peterson enjoyed college even more.

“I really found the college environment more challenging. I really hit my stride,” she said.

But to graduate in 2012 required taking a heavy course load in spring, outside volleyball season. Peterson also enrolled in that beginning drawing class for art majors because all general education courses were full, not uncommon with classes being cut in the cash-strapped state college system.

“It was the hardest class I took in college,” she said. “But I’m graduating on time.”

Next for Peterson could be graduate school.

The budding cook wants to study food and culture in Italy. Peterson hopes to attend the University of Gastronomic Sciences, in northern Italy.

Restaurant consulting, teaching, or any other of a number of careers in food could follow.

“Growing up in Sonoma County it’s hard not to keep your head out of the food scene,” Peterson said. “I think my studies will just open a lot of doors.”