The 10th-ranked UC San Diego women’s volleyball team is off to a 12-2 start and is preparing for the most competitive part of the CCAA schedule with the likes of ranked teams in Cal Poly Pomona, Cal State L.A., Cal State Bakersfield and 2nd-ranked Cal State San Bernardino on tap between now and Oct. 15. Part of the early season success stems from the play of the lone senior on the team, Laura Watkins. The San Diego native and co-captain leads the team with 35 aces and 4.36 digs per game. She recently took time to discuss the season and what’s ahead for UCSD volleyball.
Q-How do you feel about the performance of the team so far?
WATKINS- I'm really proud of what we've been able to accomplish so far. With such a young team, we've kind of been regarded as the underdogs coming into this season and I think that we've proven throughout the first part of competition that we are a team to beat and that we can play with the best of them. That being said, we still have a lot of growing to do as a team and as a new program, but it's already happening so rapidly that it will be exciting to see where we can go this year.
Q- What is something difficult about the Libero position that others might not expect?
WATKINS- Even though there are some amazing players at the Libero position, I still think that we're under the radar. Most everyone notices the big attackers and blockers on the court, but sometimes forget what happened before the ball even reached the offense. A good Libero also has to run the court from the back and really provide a lot of direction and stability for the rest of the team.
Q- Name one of your proudest volleyball memories?
WATKINS- One of the most exciting matches that I've been a part of while at UCSD was our regional semi-final match against Hawai’i Pacific University last year. We beat them in an emotional five game thriller, which felt to most of us on the team like the championship match of the year.
Q- What's the most embarassing thing that's happened to you on the court?
WATKINS- Well, there could definitely be a handful of those, but one of the worst was when I received a concussion from a former teammate, Kendra Canape, during a play and was so disoriented that I ended up walking/stumbling towards the bleachers instead of my defensive position on the court(and then was subbed out...).
Q-With so many newcomers on this team, is the team aware of the UCSD wvb history (i.e. rivalry w/ CSUSB)?
WATKINS- I think that some of the newcomers are starting to figure out who our bigger rivals are, like San Bernardino, but we haven't really made a big deal out of it. We treat them like any other opponent and do what we need to do on our side of the net to execute (although there would be some sweet revenge involved with a victory our way over the Coyotes).
Q-You already have more aces that all of last season. Have you changed anything?
WATKINS- As a team, and personally, we're definitely serving much more aggressively than last year and with that comes a lot of pressure on the other teams' serve receive. All of the extra aces are accounted for by us stepping it up behind the service line and displaying some new skills.
Q- With 10 serves, how many do you think you could hit a sheet of binder paper placed on the 3-meter line?
WATKINS- I think I could reasonably hit about 3-5 on any given day. Although, that is a pretty small target.
Q- You were born in Framingham, Massachusetts. When did you move to San Diego and how/why did you choose UCSD? Did you consider Michigan State?
WATKINS- I moved to San Diego at the beginning of the 5th grade (at about 10 yrs. old) because my Dad landed a job out here---I actually lived in Gaithersburg, Maryland after Massachusetts for 5 yrs. so I spent a big chunk of my childhood on the East Coast. I decided to go to UCSD after narrowing down my choices between a few other UC schools and then ultimately wanted to stay closer to my hometown. Plus, with UCSD's academic reputation and unique volleyball atmosphere I was pretty much convinced. Both of my parents attended Michigan State University but they both grew up there I and I wasn't looking to go that far away at the time.
Q- Do you keep in touch with other Mt. Carmel HS athletes that are here in your class?
WATKINS- Even though UCSD is a pretty large campus, I've been able to keep in touch with quite a few people that I graduated with from Mt. Carmel. It becomes a pretty small world when you run into people all over campus.
Q- What are your plans after graduation?
WATKINS- I actually don't have any set plans for when I graduate yet, but I would like to find a job that's relevant to my field of study (Management Science), and I hope to start working in the summer. Sometime in the future, I'd like to get my MBA and possibly own my own business or work in interior design.
Q- Are there athletic backgrounds in your family?
WATKINS- My family has always been active and healthy but not everyone played a lot of sports (although my Mom did well in track and field throughout her school years). My older sister is more of the artistic, independent type, but ironically got me started in volleyball in the 3rd grade. My younger sister has been playing various sports throughout her childhood (volleyball, soccer and softball) and is starting to follow in my own footsteps by playing club and school volleyball at the same positions that I did when I was her age.
Q- How has your role changed in this year, from last year?
WATKINS- I think that I've taken on a bigger role this year, being the only senior, and playing the libero position. I'm also one of the captains on the team and can provide veteran leadership to a lot of the newcomers. Also, being on the court so often, I feel like I can really help lead this team, along with other players and our new coaching staff, to where we want to get this year.
Q- What do you like to do outside volleyball?
WATKINS- Being from San Diego, it's hard not to love to be outside and on the beaches. I've also started to really enjoy playing beach volleyball for fun and competitively. I'm also a sucker for walking around and shopping (PB, downtown, mall, etc.) on a free day.
Q- Name a strength of this team and something it needs to improve on.
WATKINS- We've always emphasized that serving and passing will, more often than not, determine the outcome of a game and I think we've proven so far that we're on top of that---if that ever breaks down during a game is when we tend to lose most of our points. Our transition game has also improved since the beginning of the season, since we've been putting so much work into it in practice. And, defense has always been one of our consistent strengths.
I think one thing that we could improve on is our mental game---keeping up our intensity no matter who we are playing and being able to control the tempo of the game from our side of the net. Also, we're starting to learn why we run the offensive and defensive systems that we do so that should be a huge plus when we can put everything together.
Q- What do you like about Tom Black and expect from the UCSD vball program in the upcoming years?
WATKINS- Tom has been a great coach for us so far. He's an intense guy and knows what he wants to get out of us and I think that he and our assistants (who've also been huge factors in our success so far) can take us to a level that we haven't experienced before. We're doing so many new things--skills, stats, and video--and it's been great for our program so far. We have many goals that we'd like to achieve as a team and I believe that it's all right there for the taking.
Q- Homecoming and the WVB alumni game is coming. Will that be emotional for you?
WATKINS- It's always great to get continued support from our fan base and from past teammates and friends. I know that a lot of graduated players come back to watch many of our games and I plan on doing the same thing after this year. It's hard to let go of a program that you've been a part of for so long--but it's also gratifying to know that you helped get it to where it is today and where it will be in future years.
PREVIOUS Q&A ARTICLES
Kevin Murray (Men's Soccer) - September 20, 2005
Carl Lostrom (Men's Cross Country) - September 13, 2005
Clark Petersen (Men's Water Polo) - September 6, 2005
Briana Koche (Women's Volleyball) - August 30, 2005