CHARLOTTE, N.C. (BigSouthSports.com) – The Big South Conference, in conjunction with Collegiate Partner Musco Sports Lighting, begins the third year of its monthly "Musco Women's Spotlight" feature. Campbell senior volleyball player Lauren Garza (Englewood, Fla.) is the first profile of the 2011-12 season.
Garza and her teammates are new to the Big South Conference in 2011. A past Atlantic Sun All-Academic team member, she played in all 27 of the Fighting Camel's matches in 2010, posting 219 digs in 85 sets. The defensive specialist has tallied 675 digs in 87 career matches at Campbell. When not competing, the kinesiology major represents her fellow student-athletes as president of the Campbell Student-Athlete Advisory Committee for two years running (2010-11 and 2011-12). In this month's spotlight, Garza talks about her pregame rituals, playing in the Big South, playing Angry Birds, and things her teammates do not know about her. Some responses have been edited for clarity and brevity.
What are your thoughts on competing in the Big South Conference for your senior year? I am really excited to be in the Big South Conference going into my senior year. It will be a memorable experience to finalize my four years here.
When you heard about Campbell's return to the Big South two years ago, what did you look forward to? With the return to the Big South, the farthest we have to travel is either Virginia or South Carolina, so it makes it a lot easier to focus on playing instead of traveling all the time. The level of competition is very good for our team, and it will make for a great season to see who will fight the hardest to win the conference tournament.
What age did you seriously begin playing volleyball? I was 14 when I started playing club regularly and quit the other sports I was involved in (gymnastics and horseback riding).
Why did you choose to attend Campbell? I love North Carolina and I was ready to try something new. The campus is smaller and I really wanted a small school. Everyone is so friendly here and I fell in love with the school.
Who has had the greatest influence on your athletic career? My parents. They always taught me that I can do anything that I want to do and if it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be a collegiate volleyball player.
What is your most memorable collegiate experience (athletically)? Last year, we played in the Carolina Classic pre-season tournament and we were given the honor to play three-time national champion Penn State. It was hands-down the best learning experience of my life, and a memory I will never forget.
What are your goals athletically? I want to complete my senior year with a conference championship. We have worked so hard as a team over the summer and I want our success to reflect that.
What is your definition of a leader? A leader is someone who can lead by not only words, but actions as well. A leader is someone who continues to act like a leader even when no one is watching.
What do you like about competing? I love the adrenaline that keeps me pumped up during games. I love the atmosphere during games, and obviously I love winning.
What are your plans after you leave Campbell? I will hopefully work for a year with my kinesiology degree then enter into Physicians Assistant school in the fall of 2013 if everything goes as planned.
What advice would you give a freshman student-athlete? Don't be afraid to turn to teammates. There will be times when life seems so difficult but as a freshman there are always older teammates who have been in the same place and have been through similar experiences.
How has being a student-athlete developed you into an overall leader? I have learned so much about time management, respect, perseverance, and determination over my last 3 years and all of those attributes are crucial in order to be a successful leader and a successful employee in life.
What leadership qualities do you hope to instill in your team? I hope to show my team determination, perseverance, and my drive to succeed even in the most impossible of situations.
How do you want to be remembered when you leave Campbell? I want to be remembered as someone who never gave up when things got hard, and someone who was dedicated to my sport and being a successful student-athlete at Campbell.
What memorable experiences and/or skills have you gained from being the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee president? Every year our school participates in Relay for Life and SAAC uses it as our largest fundraiser. It is a big hit every year and such a great experience to see so many people come out to support such a good cause. As SAAC president, I have so many memories and relationships with people who I may never have met if it wasn't for my position in the committee. I am grateful for those connections now.
What is it like being the only four-year senior on the team this season? It doesn't really feel like I am the only four-year senior. There are two other seniors who came in as transfers last year and they are my best friends. I feel like I have played with them all four years.
What is your relationship like with Coach Leigh Mullins? Coach Mullins started her first year coaching the same year I came in as a freshman. I have grown so much over the last 3 years and I have so much respect for her dedication to the program. She has so much knowledge for the game and it has benefitted me so much. I can always go to her when I have a concern or question and I know that I will continue to have a relationship with her beyond my four years as one of her athletes.
If you could spend one day with an athlete, who would it be? Babe Ruth. I would love to know what professional sports were like when it was purely for the love of the game, and not a high salary.
What is something your teammates don't know about you? I was a cheerleader all throughout middle and high school.
If you could play any other sport, what would it be, and why? Soccer. Both of my roommates play soccer for Campbell and I think it would be so much fun.
Take a vacation anywhere, where would it be and why? Europe. I went to Europe in 2009 and it was the most eye-opening place I have ever traveled to. I fell in love with Italy and Switzerland and I would do anything to go back again.
When traveling on a long road trip, what do you always bring with you? A book. Reading a book makes a long trip go faster.
What is in your iPod? Country music and the Angry Birds app.
What is the highest Angry Birds level you have achieved? I have beaten the game completely, including most of the specialized versions, and now I am in the process of going back and achieving three stars on every level.
What is your favorite TV show? 19 Kids and Counting. I just LOVE that family and their ability to stay exactly the same despite having their lives televised.
Beside Campbell, what has been your favorite place to play? Florida! I loved being able to play in Florida and see some of my family and friends from back home.
Do you have any pregame rituals? I always eat peanut butter before a game. I've done it since high school and I can't play without it.
What websites do you visit most often when surfing the internet? Facebook, Twitter, and Yahoo.
What do you like to do when you have free time? I love to read anything romance or mystery related. I also really like to travel.
If you had a theme song to play every time you walked into a room, what would it be? The Eye of the Tiger.
If you won the lottery, what would be your first purchase? I would pay off all of the debt in my family.
What is your favorite vacation spot? Gatlinburg, Tennessee. The mountains are my favorite place to be and Gatlinburg is so peaceful and quaint.
Motto you live by? I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.- Philippians 4:13