Up Close and Personal with Toni Muratore
Oct. 8, 2001
Toni Muratore is a freshman on this year's volleyball squad. The middle blocker is from nearby Merced and leads the team with 184 kills, a 3.68 per-game average. She's also tops defensively, leading Santa Clara in blocks with 32.
Muratore recently took some time to share her thoughts on a variety of questions, including some insight to the team's pre-match dance ritual to 'NSYNC's "Pop."
Q: How did you get started playing volleyball?
A: I started playing recreationally in fourth grade. I just played for my junior high school team. When I got into high school, I made varsity my freshman year and my sophomore year, we made it to sections. A club coach saw me playing and invited me to play club for him in Stockton. I've just loved it ever since. I stopped doing other sports because it got to be too much and I committed to volleyball.
Q: What's the best part about playing your position, middle blocker?
A: I think it's one of the most hardworking positions, besides setter, of course. The setter has a lot to handle, but... it makes me work harder, every play I have to close the block and then come back in and transition to get a kill. It's a big role and I like being a part of it, just being the 'big girl' in the middle. You just have to work so hard at it to be good.
Q: Santa Clara graduated two top middle blockers at the end of last year. Has it been hard for you learning your role without any upperclassmen to look up to for guidance?
A: Yeah, it's been hard because I feel sometimes there's a lot of weight on my shoulders. Not that anybody puts it there, but I feel that I need to get the kill, to put every ball away. All the middles compete every day in practice for two spots. It has been hard. I do want somebody there that's already been there.
Q: At the same time, the season opened in Tempe in August with you as the starting middle blocker. How cool was that?
A: It was amazing. I didn't expect it to be that overwhelming, but it was. It was so exciting just to be a part of it. So many freshmen don't get to play going into their first year of college, and I have. It's a lot of fun. It's an experience.
Q: You've had the whole preseason to get used to the season and now you're in conference play, when it really counts. Has that changed the team's focus?
A: In the preseason, we knew we were young, we just went out there and played our best. Our team is so young and new at this. Now, we just need to recognize that preseason's over: we learned all we can learn during that time and now we need to take what we've learned and bring it to conference. It is kind of stressful, because it's like 'we have to win this game, we have to win.' There's so much pressure in every game. You have the nervousness and worry that 'I hope my game's here tonight!'
Q: Talk about what it's like to play some of the best programs in the country, like Stanford, Hawaii, and even Pacific next week, not to mention beating UC Santa Barbara.
A: It's soooo much fun. I know all those coaches and I've seen those girls play in club. You grow up idolizing those girls and wanting to be as good as her and then you're playing against her and thinking 'I am as good as her! I can be better her!' The coaches that have seen me play have come up to me and said I'm growing into my game. It's such a good experience. I see that our team can play with those teams. We have the potential on this squad to beat some of those teams. Especially Santa Barbara... we came out and took it to them and beat them so fast. That was so much fun... having an intense game, the team unity, and to go out there and beat them. It's a lot of fun. Definitely.
Q: The volleyball season opened about three weeks before school started. Did that make it easier to transition to college... take the season first and then throw in school to the mix?
A: Yeah, it really does help a lot. You already know what volleyball is all about. And then when school starts, then it's just another added part into your day. It's still hard. You get back from practice and all you want to do is sleep but there's still class. It was an easier transition that it could have been.
Q: Any advise for the freshmen in other sports that have to jump into both at the same time?
A: You just have to be focus. You really have to manage your time. A lot of freshmen come in and it's all about partying and then going to classes, but athletes can't do that. You really can't. If you party, you're going to be so tired when the morning comes. It's way too hard.
Q: Are your parents able to come to many of your matches?
A: My dad tries to come to everything. He's really a committed volleyball fan. And my mom tries. I have a younger sister at home that she hangs out with her. But he's really in to it. I look for him every time. If he's not here, I freak out, 'Where's my dad? Where's my mom?' I've grown up with it... every sporting event, my parents have been there. It's so important to me.
Q: Why did you pick Santa Clara?
A: I really liked Jon (Wallace) and I knew I didn't want to go out of state. I wanted to stay close to home. The school was really pretty and small. I did not want to go to a school with too many people and be in a classroom with 200 students and not have my professors know me. I wanted to be in a small environment and get to know everybody. And even though time-wise it's hard to get home, at least I have the option if I need to get away.
Q: What's your favorite place on campus?
A: I really like going into the church and sitting in there, thinking about school, the team, or my family. It's a place where I can completely get away from everybody and reflect.
Q: How have classes been going for you? Have you been thinking about a major?
A: I have no idea what I want to do. I really don't. I'm really clueless, completely. I'm just taking general classes right now, English, history, religion. I like all my teachers a lot, but I really don't know what I want to do yet.
Q: Fill us in on the pregame dance ritual that some of the girls do for the team.
A: It's out of control! Some of the older girls got together and decided to do a dance for the freshmen. It's a dance to 'NSYNC's "Pop" and it really gets everybody fired up. Everybody gets so into it and it's so much fun. It's a way to not think about the game for a minute and just be fun. We know we're going to be okay and we can go out and play. It gets us all pumped up, we're ready to go kick some butt after that.
Q: Is it a synchronized routine or do the girls just move to the music?
A: Oh, it's completely synchronized. Becky Potter made it up and taught all the girls.
Q: So have you participated in the dance, or are you just an observer?
A: I watch. And then after their little routine, we all get up and dance. It's out of control. It really is.
Q: Do the coaches ever participate?
A: They've seen it, but they've never put their dance moves into it.
Q: Who is the person you most admire and why?
A: I really look up to my older brother, Jay. He's gone through a lot in his life. He's overcome so many things and is such a strong person. He's an amazing guy just to talk to. There's so many things about him, it's hard to sum up. It's hard to explain how much he's influenced me to be things I never would have thought of on my own.
Q: Do you have any hobbies outside of volleyball?
A: I like to hang out with my friends and the volleyball team. I talk on the phone a lot... probably not as much as some of the other freshmen, but it is a lot. Oh, and shopping. I love to shop. Every time I get a chance, I go to the mall.
Q: What's your favorite store?
A: Oh, gosh... I love them all! I'm not the looker either, I like to buy. It's mainly clothes. I wear a lot of comfy stuff, so anything like a sweatshirt or a pair of jeans. I'm a jeans girl. Everybody will tell you that. Every time I come back from the mall I get asked what I got, and it's always jeans.
Q: How hard is it to find clothes to fit your 6-2 frame?
A: So hard! It's like, 'Do you have any longs?' and then, 'How long are your longs?'
Q: Anything else about you or the team you want to share today?
A: Come to our games and support us. We're going to be good. Really good this year. And the next year we're only going to get better.