Hi Rhody! I'm back this week with teammate and roommate Olivia Budinich, currently snuggled into our living room couch and taking advantage of a day off. But, unlike other off days, today we get to find out more about Olivia's passion for volleyball. Let's see what makes her grind worth it!
MG: I know that, like many of our teammates, you started playing volleyball at a pretty young age. What initially got you interested in the sport?
OB: What initially got me interested was my middle school team. We got to try out in sixth grade, so I went out on a limb and tried out with my best friend at the time. Then, next thing I knew, I was on the team! It sounds cheesy but ever since that point I fell in love with the sport. I decided to quit softball and commit my time just to volleyball. I went on to club and, after my first year of playing in sixth grade, I knew I wanted to play in college.
MG: Over the years it can get very tough with school, and also playing a competitive sport. What kept you playing volleyball? Was there a driving factor?
OB: It definitely gets hard with school but it's also always helped me to stay focused and keep on a schedule. I'm not the most organized person - as all my teammates know - but volleyball always forced me to keep to a certain schedule when it came to my schoolwork.
MG: So liberos often start out in hitting positions playing at younger ages, and then in most cases, once they stop growing, they can't block the girl who was once the same height as them and but is now 6'1'' so they're switched to a defensive position. It's usually either an unfortunate growth spurt of their peers, or an especially extraordinary love for defense, but in either case, becoming a libero is the most obvious option. I know something similar happened to you, what positions did you play before becoming the libero? Did you always love passing and defending more than offense?
OB: I actually was one of those girls who grew before everyone else so I was the tallest girl in my grade for most of middle school up until about eighth grade. My earliest years of club, from maybe 13s-15s, I was one of the tallest. So, I started out as a middle and then was an outside. Being an outside, I had to pass a lot so I just always loved passing and had a natural talent for it, I guess. But it was my 16s year that my coach finally made me a libero.
At that point, everyone had shot up past me and I was still the same height that I was in fifth grade, so it just made the most sense for my future - to become a libero - so I could learn the position and become more accustomed to it.
Even though I played libero for club from 16s-18s, my freshman year of high school I was still used here and there as an outside, which was fun. Once you're a libero, hitting is like the most fun thing ever since you never get to do it!
MG: For most athletes playing their sport at the Division I level is a dream come true. For others, they realize they are not up for the task, or not interested in their sport past a certain point. I know this isn't the case for you because you absolutely love volleyball, and playing here at URI. What has your experience been like at URI? What has made it so fulfilling for you?
OB: Being at URI has been amazing. I've met my best friends for life through volleyball so I'm very thankful for that. It's definitely the people I've met that have made it so fulfilling for me. I'm lucky to be blessed with such great teammates. We all get along so well and are all very close and not many teams have that.
MG: You're a junior this year, so as you look forward to the rest of this season - and onward into your senior year - what are you looking forward to the most?
OB: I'm looking forward to a lot! I'm excited for what this team can do this year. So far we've had a really great start and I just can't wait to see what we can do, especially come tournament time!
I couldn't agree with Olivia more! Keep an eye out for Rhody volleyball and Olivia. Big things are bound to happen with such a tight knit group of people, who are so dedicated to the sport they love. This, in large part is because of people like Olivia. Her passion and excitement for practice everyday is inspiring and uplifting, and continues to be a huge reason Rhody volleyball is the success it is.
Until next time!