It's time. The season is finally upon us. As I sit and type this, the team bus is en route to Waco in order to get settled in before playing host Baylor in our first game of the season tomorrow night. I really hope many of you reading this can find a way - any way - to support the Ladyjacks. Being in the Ferrell Center with purple on is the best way, but remember that we have Gametracker and the live chat with Ben and I available for you here. I've recently learned that the software that we use for the in-game live chats is smartphone compatible meaning that you can join the chat even if you are in the Ferrell Center watching the match. Ask questions, make comments and interact with other SFA Volleyball fans that are both near and far from the action. Ben and I will be your eyes and ears if you can't be there in person.
Unfortunately, one of the 'Jacks who will be recuperating an injury and not available for battle this weekend is Senior right-side hitter Ari Daron. All are hopeful that Ari's wrist heals mega-fast and she gets back into the lineup in about a month - possibly sooner.
My timing was bad in that I sent Ari the questions below right before she was scheduled to go in for her surgery. I should have moved this interview up to be more accommodating. For that, I apologize, but Ari was very gracious to get back to me soon after the surgery was over, which of course, I didn't expect.
I remember watching Daron as a sophomore- she got in a few dozen sets at middle blocker - but Ashley Bailey and the emergence of freshman MC Bottles overshadowed her contributions. Last year, I began to go to early fall workouts in order to report on things here at the blog and I was blown away. The advances that Ari had made between the end of her 2nd year and the start of her 3rd Fall were astronomical. She was easily one of the most improved players we had going into last year. Of course, all of you know the rest of the story to this point. She went out in 2009 and backed up what we all saw in practice to the tune of 307 kills. Only Bottles and Owens saw more sets come their way than Daron in 2009. Her .229 attack percentage was third on the team and best among those playing primarily on the outside.
Daron is one of the most versatile front row players we have, so I really hope she is able to get back on the court soon. Maybe the time off will keep her extra fresh for the end of the season when things get to be a grind. We'll need her more in November than right now. Something tells me she'll make her presence known.
Have fun reading the interview...and I hope to see as many of you reading this as possible in Waco or at the very least in Johnson Coliseum next Tuesday night for our home opener against Louisiana-Monroe.
SFAVolleyBlog.net: In addition to volleyball, you were excellent at both basketball & track in high school. You had multiple team MVP and all-district honors as a prep athlete. Was it tough to decide to concentrate solely on volleyball when you were first coming out of high school or did you know for sure you wanted to play volleyball in college?
Ari: Yes it was very hard to decide between volleyball and basketball because I loved them both equally. Every since I was little, my family would encourage me to play basketball in college then continue on to the pros so that they could get free tickets! But, after my senior year I knew I had to chose and I chose volleyball mainly because of SFA. I had my mind made up that if I played collegiate volleyball it would have to be here. For one reason, because I have a family history here. My grandma used to be the head chef and my grandpa was the head custodian and they both retired from SFA. But also visiting the team and seeing the love and chemistry along with the Village dorms played a big role in me coming here too!
SFAVolleyBlog.net: This time last year, when I was watching practices, it was clear that you had really improved a great deal between the end of your sophomore and the beginning of your junior year. Going into this season, what areas are you looking to make the greatest strides in?
Ari: I think there's always room for improvement in all aspects of my game but blocking would remain at the top of my list. It's gotten better but still not where I feel its capable of being. I'd really like to see us all step up a great deal against Central Arkansas this year. We're capable of beating any and every team that we play. I just can't sit well with the thought that they are an undefeatable team. That should be us.
SFAVolleyBlog.net: Last year, you had some of your very best games against some of the conference’s toughest opponents. You had a career high 19 kills vs. UCA at home and hit .522 with a team-high 14 kills against Texas State. Are you someone who looks forward to being at the center of things in big matches? Are you someone who wants to get set the ball at crunch time or get a block at just the key point in a big match?
Ari: Yes, I always want to get the ball and I always want my teammates to have the confidence in me that I can and will get the job done when we need it.
SFAVolleyBlog.net: As a senior, you are now in a position to have a big impact on the underclassmen that are coming in after you. Which former players were the biggest help to you while they were upperclassmen and you were just getting started?
Ari: I would have to say Ashley Bailey had the biggest impact on me, on and off the court. She was my friend, my teammate and my "mother away from home"...and at other times was more like a big sister. There are times I sit and think "I don't know what I would have done without her". I still call her on a regular basis to talk or for her to keep me sane. But any issue I had or anytime I needed advice about volleyball, or class, she was the first person I'd call because I knew she'd tell me exactly what I needed to hear whether I wanted to hear it or not.
SFAVolleyBlog.net: Finally, in Lo’s interview, she claimed you have the title of “prankster” on the team. The readers were told of an incident at McNeese where you help barricade a door so coaches couldn’t get in. Do you admit to the title of "prankster"? Are there any other famous pranks that you can recall that are able to be printed? Do you have any “partners in crime” on these pranks or do you work alone?
Ari: Yes, I have to admit to it!. But I rarely act alone. Usually if it wasn't me alone, then [former Ladyjack]Emily Franklin had a part in it. There was a night when me, Emily, and [former Ladyjack] Amber Doolittle were at the Village playing Guitar Hero: We would invite teammates over one by one to "see Emily's Halloween costume" and when they went to open the closet door we had someone hiding inside with a water gun and a camera at the top of the closet recording the entire thing. We scared everyone on the team but I think scaring Maddie was probably the funniest.
[Ed. Note: I playfully ask for the video that goes along with this prank, but something tells me... I ain't never gonna get it.]
Remember: Baylor Tournament this weekend and home opener against ULM on Tuesday night at the Coliseum. In case you want to read back over the previous player profiles, here are the links. We have three to go & they will appear in this order: Allison Gideon, MC Bottles and then Kelsey Owens will wrap this series up before going to an all-freshmen Q&A.
Finally. The Season. Let's rock and roll.