Athlete of The Week Interview: Samantha Arenas
BRSN: What was your mindset going into this past weekend?
Samantha: What was your mindset going into this past weekend? Going into the weekend, I felt the team held the expectancy that we were going to sweep Harvard and Dartmouth like we did to Columbia the previous weekend, for the first time in a season in years. That team confidence from the previous weekend really translated into our dynamic before and during the Dartmouth and Harvard games, so I never felt nervous about possible outcomes of the weekend. That and the feeling of a sense of urgency that we could not let up even a little bit if we wanted a chance at winning the league really put us in a position where all we felt was passion and the desire to win.
BRSN: How did you first get started with volleyball, and what kept you in the sport?
Samantha: When I started playing volleyball, I was 11 years old. I had been a gymnast for five to six years before that, but as time passed in the sport, I realized that gymnastics wasn’t right for me for various reasons. My sister was also a gymnast but had quit before me and started playing volleyball, so when I quit gymnastics about a year or two later, I thought it would be a good idea to also give volleyball a try, seeing how much she liked it. I discovered that I really enjoyed the sport and became passionate about it, so I’ve been playing volleyball since; this will be my tenth year playing.
BRSN:Why did you choose Cornell?
Samantha:When my sophomore year of high school rolled around, I had a talk with one of my club coaches about playing volleyball in college. After we talked about these possibilities, I started looking for universities that had both the rigorous academic and athletic aspects I wanted, but Cornell was the first university my coach mentioned to me, and I later absolutely fell in love with it. Even though I continued to look at other schools, I felt that Cornell was the perfect school that offered the balance between academics and competitive D1 athletics. Before coming to Cornell, I visited and already got along very well with the girls I met on the team, and they all made me feel welcomed even before I officially committed to being a student-athlete here. Another plus was the change in location, because I am from a small city near the southeastern coast of Florida, so the change in climate was difficult at first but also really nice.
BRSN: What is your favorite volleyball memory?
Samantha: My favorite volleyball memory is of a club match I played my junior year of high school. Our team originally had nine girls, but due to several circumstances, we were left with six, the minimum number we needed to play. Things were messy at first because we had no middle blockers so our Libero had to play defense and also play as a middle, and our setter had to set out of the middle position as well. Although things were not ideal, our team chemistry was wonderful and we all got along so well. Being put in the position we were in, we gave all of our effort every match because we simply had no other option. I mean this literally because no matter what happened, the six of us had to play all the way around. This game was against a team that was top in the state of Florida, and people said there was no way we would ever come close to beating them with only six girls and no middles. We ended up losing, but only by 3 points in the third set (it was best out of three), and our Libero even got a block on a girl that was well over 6 foot. We took a set from that team and came very close to winning because of our passion and drive. I had never felt closer to a team or group of girls than in that moment.
BRSN: What’s your favorite Cornell game that you have played in?
Samantha:I don’t think I could ever forget our win against Harvard last year. We were in the fifth set, down 1-10, and everyone’s spirits were extremely low because of how close we were to losing the game. In that moment, the people on the court got together after losing a point. In a really passionate manner, a couple of the upperclassmen started yelling that we had to make a change to have a sense of urgency and not let up on any point. This immediately elicited a change in our attitudes, and instead of feeling sorry for ourselves, we all, as a unit, made the decision to fight for every single point. We went on a run for several points after that and won the game. It was an incredible feeling and several girls, mostly seniors, were crying from how emotional the moment was. To add to the fun and excitement, the team started a riff off (similar to the one in the movie Pitch Perfect) on the bus and some of my teammates were actually pretty impressive. I think that win marked a shift in our attitude and confidence for the rest of the season.
BRSN: How do you like to prepare for games?
Samantha: We spend a lot of time before games working on serve receive or reviewing game strategies with the team, but I really enjoy the time I spend with my teammates in between those things. Everyone gets really excited and has a ton of energy, so we feed into each other, and I think that’s always the best way to start a match.
BRSN:What’s your favorite pregame meal?
Samantha: Our pregame meals have been mostly different before every game, so I can’t say I have a favorite yet. However, I do like when we have earlier games because the pregame meals provided are breakfast, and any breakfast meal really is a favorite of mine.
BRSN: Besides volleyball, what do you enjoy to do?
Samantha: As I’m sure many students relate to, it’s difficult to find a time to do the things I enjoy doing outside of volleyball, classes, and my other extracurriculars. However, my favorite memories have always centered around being with my teammates. I live with the girls in my class (all juniors), and when we have free time, we’ll do a lot of random things together like play Fibbage or other games, Karaoke, watch movies, have dinner, go to Purity, etc.