One of three freshmen who have been regular starters for the University of California San Diego women's volleyball team in the early part of the 2016 season, setter Marie Paris has been able to ring up some pretty impressive numbers while holding down one of the most demanding positions on the court. The 6-foot lefty has already handed out 324 assists and is third on the squad with 81 digs. With California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) play starting tonight, the San Clemente native shared her thoughts on the young Tritons' up-and-down start, the help she receives from head coach and former U.S. national team setter Ricci Luyties, and some of her personal favorites.
Q: You've started all eight matches so far this season, racking up 324 assists and 81 digs, but the team is sitting on a 3-5 record. How would you analyze your performance so far, and that of the team?
PARIS: Well, for starters, we are a very young team. More than half our team is brand new to UCSD Volleyball, so it is taking us a while to get used to each other on the court, and to create the type of chemistry veteran teams have when we have only known each other for a couple of weeks. That being said, both myself and the other people on the court are trying so hard each day in practice and out of practice to get on the same page and work together so we can improve our record throughout the year.
Q: As a freshman who has yet to even attend a class at UC San Diego, are you surprised to find yourself as the starting setter?
PARIS: Well, I am pretty inexperienced in the class department here at UCSD, but all I can do is try my best in each practice and keep pushing myself to be the best I can be. I am extremely blessed to be given the opportunity to compete for the starting setter position. If putting all I have into each practice every day earns me the spot as the starting setter, I am extremely grateful, but I also know I earned that spot on the court.
Q: What's been the most difficult part of the transition from high school to college volleyball?
PARIS: College volleyball is a lot more fast-paced than high school volleyball. The tempo of the sets, the longer practices and weight training with the team is all new to me, especially the ice baths! But, so far I love college volleyball and the ability to compete at such a high level.
Q: This year's team has seven freshmen and three other newcomers on a roster of 17. How easy have you found it to mesh with the returning players, and how important is that process to team success?
PARIS: Of course, with any team that has that many new players, it is hard at first to mesh and form a strong bond right away. Luckily at UCSD, all the returning players are so welcoming and helpful, making the transition as easy as possible.
Honestly, everyone gets along so well it's pretty amazing. We absolutely do not have any feuds with each other and only have the utmost respect for everyone on the team. We already have so many inside jokes it drives our coaches crazy when we laugh all the time about past experiences we've had together.
PARIS: Coach knows so much about setting it's ridiculous. He is so experienced when it comes to setting, because he was a setter as well. During the game, he always gives me pointers on my sets, like when to dump the ball or when to hold the block if I jump set, so just the little pointers like that are extremely helpful because other coaches can't give the same insight as he can.
Q: How would you describe Ricci's coaching style, and how does it compare to previous coaches?
PARIS: Coach is very calm and steady during practices. He has exactly what he wants to work on each day, and knows exactly how we are going to accomplish each task. He cares so much for us, and makes us try our best on every play at every practice, game and scrimmage.
Coach, like most athletes, has a strong competitive streak and wants to win like all of us do. So as a result, he holds us accountable for our mistakes and makes sure we put forth our best effort for the sake of our team. He is much more experienced than my high school coaches, and pushes the team more so we can reach our full potential.
Q: The team opens CCAA play this weekend. Does it feel like a chance to "restart" the season?
PARIS:I feel like our preseason was needed in order to know what we were capable of doing without that much experience of playing together on the same team. That being said, we have learned and grown a lot from our preseason matches, so we are so excited to play this weekend and show off all that we've learned these past couple of weeks.
Q: You've classified yourself as a "proficient juggler." What's the toughest set of items you've ever juggled? How do you plan to "juggle" volleyball and academics when classes start next week?
PARIS: In a literal context, the toughest set of items I've juggled were my little sister's Barbie dolls, and I was so scared that she would notice that their hair wasn't brushed neatly after they had been thrown in the air.
On a more figurative level, I plan on juggling my different activities just as I have been for most of my life. Since I can remember, I have always been involved with more activities than I can count on my hands, so I have become really proficient at managing my time by staying organized and prioritizing. All of my older teammates have been really helpful, and have said that the key is to stay organized and plan ahead to make sure your activities do not overlap.
Q: You're a fan of Olympic beach volleyball star Kerri Walsh Jennings. Were you surprised that she and partner April Ross had to settle for bronze in Rio? Do you think you'll be playing volleyball when you're her age?
PARIS: I absolutely love Kerri Walsh Jennings, and I actually had the honor of meeting her a couple of times! I was surprised that they did not make it to the final this past summer at the Olympics, just because they have dominated for the past couple of years, but Brazil did an amazing job and stayed strong for the whole match.
Honestly, I love volleyball and it is a huge aspect of my life, but I have other aspirations that I would like to accomplish after college, which would mean volleyball would have to be put aside in order for those things to happen.
Q: The Los Angeles Dodgers are your favorite baseball team. How did you become a fan, and who is your favorite player on the team?
PARIS: Well, I grew up in a family that worships the game of baseball. My dad is a huge San Francisco Giants fan, while my mom is a big Los Angeles Dodgers fan, so growing up with that feud always made games interesting.
I personally became a Dodger because I had grown up going to the LA games and eating Dodger Dogs in the stands while singing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." My favorite player on the team is Clayton Kershaw, because he dominates as a pitcher and is very humble about his talents.
Q: You're a human biology major with the intent to attend medical school and eventually become a doctor. Is that a profession that runs in the family? What is your motivation for that profession?
PARIS: Unfortunately, that profession does not run in the family, so I will be venturing out of my comfort zone, since almost my whole family line consists of teachers. I want to become an oncologist after attending medical school.
My biggest motivation for that profession is having had both my grandma and grandpa die of cancer. Many of my family members have died of this horrible disease, and I really want to help prevent people from having to go through the pain of losing one or in my case, multiple family members in that way.
Q: Have you ever been to Paris, France?
PARIS: When I was little my parents actually took me to Paris, but other than that one trip, I have not gone. I really want to go and travel around Europe, so hopefully in the near future, I can say I am Marie Paris in Paris!
Q: In three months when your freshman season is behind you, what would make you consider it a success?
PARIS: If the team tries its best and we create a bond from the experiences we will all share, I will consider it a success. Yes, I definitely want to win our conference and qualify for regionals, and if we continue to improve I am sure we can accomplish that. But in case we don't, I am just really blessed and happy to be a part of such a great program and team. The friends I am already making have become some of my closest friends in my life, and it has only been a couple of weeks! So I think after this season we will be a success through experiences we share together as a team, or conference titles we gain along the way.
Previous Triton Q&A Features
Kiera Bocchino (Women's Soccer) September 2, 2016
Nick Alexander (Men's Water Polo) August 23, 2016
Karina Carstens (Women's Cross Country) August 8, 2016
Amanda Colla (Women's Volleyball) July 22, 2016
Palano Twins (Men's Soccer) July 13, 2016
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