Q&A With Sam Tortorello
Dec. 1, 2003
Penn State sophomore Sam Tortorello was named the Big Ten Volleyball Player of the Week on November 17th following stellar performances against Michigan and Michigan State. She recorded 64 assists, six kills, 12 digs, and five blocks in those games, helping to keep her team on top of the Conference standings. Tortorello is a key member of the Nittany Lion squad that clinched the 2003 Big Ten championship just days ago, as she is tied for the Conference lead with 13.59 assists per game and ranked in the top 20 in digs (2.81). Tortorello was named the Big Ten Freshman of the year following the 2002 season, and also earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors. Last summer, the Shorewood, Illinois native was the youngest member of the Exterminator's Club that won the 2003 USA Volleyball National Championship. Here is how Sam answered some of our questions about being a setter, playing with members of the US National Team, and following in her sisters' footsteps.
Your team holds a slight lead in the Big Ten standings entering the final games of the season. Are you feeling any pressure, nerves, or just excitement? (Since the completion of this interview, Penn State has secured the 2003 Big Ten championship)
I think we feel as every Big Ten team feels heading into a big weekend of conference play, it is nerve racking and the pressure to win is on, but it is exciting and competitive. Who wouldn't love competing for a conference championship?
Going into last season, did you have any expectations or aspirations of winning the Big Ten Freshman of the Year award?
No, not really. My goal coming into last season as a freshman was to contribute to the team any way possible. I wanted to be on the court and I wanted to win. Being named Big Ten Freshman of the Year was a great honor and an extra for me.
What has been the biggest difference for you, between you freshman and sophomore seasons?
The biggest difference between my freshman and sophomore seasons has been expectations, not only given by myself, but by my coaches and teammates as well. I have a year of college experience and my standards and goals are different. With a year under my belt, I'm expected to be smarter, stronger, and more of a leader. It's exciting because I can only hope each year gets better and better.
How did you handle starting as a freshman, especially at the setter position?
My goal as a freshman was to start so it was an accomplishment for me personally. It was pressuring at times but I think I handled it well for the most part. I had to get used to my hitters and connecting with them so that took some time, but with the help of my teammates overall my freshman year went pretty smooth.
What is your favorite part about being a setter?
I love being a setter. I couldn't really see myself at any other position because I've never played anything else. [Senior middle hitter] Cara Smith and I joke around and say maybe one day at practice she can set and I'll play middle, but I don't think I'd do very well. But my favorite part of being a setter is running the offense. I enjoy the challenge of reading the opposing block and defense and being involved in every play. Also the best part is your hitters and watching them finish the play, I think that is the greatest satisfaction of being a setter.
Tell me a little bit about your experience this summer on the Exterminators Volleyball Club.
My experience with the Exterminators was one of my favorite overall volleyball memories. Winning the national championship at the women's level was amazing and all together was a learning experience. That week in Minneapolis I had the opportunity to watch terrific volleyball, compete in the summer, and play with and against some of the nation's best players. I was very lucky and grateful to be a part of that tournament and if all works out again, I hope to go back to nationals this coming summer with the Exterminators.
What was it like to p lay with professional and national team members?
"Wow" is probably the only word for it. The people I played with were wonderful. They were players I watched growing up and have accomplished many of the goals I hope to achieve someday. I was the youngest on the team, being 19, when I think the average ages were 24-28, so I was the baby on the team. They were great though, they taught me about being competitive and what it takes to be good. They all were amazing leaders so I learned a lot about being a leader on the floor, and they offered their personal volleyball experiences to me. I really think in the games that after I set them, I would stop in awe as Patrice Arrington, Makare Wilson or Benishe Roberts went up to swing. It was truly an honor playing with all those players.
You have two older sisters that both played college volleyball, would you be playing if it wasn't for them? Was there ever a time when you thought about not playing volleyball?
My oldest sister, Laura, played club volleyball at University of Illinois, Liz played at University of Wisconsin, and Katie played at Boston College, so of course my sisters definitely have had a major impact on my volleyball career. They introduced me to the sport and I grew up wanting to be like all three of them. They are my biggest fans. My sisters are my support and gave me the love for the game. I get the question all the time 'are you ever sick of volleyball and do you ever just don't want to play?' NO, I love it, which is why I'm at Penn State and that's why I've been playing for 11 years. If I ever thought about not playing I wouldn't be here right now. I think I'll stop when I've reached all my goals on the court or when my fingers fall off. Which ever one comes first.