Nov. 24, 2011
Every Thursday, UCLABruins.com will sit down with a member of the women's volleyball team. This week, we talk with senior Lainey Gera, who discusses how instrumental her sisters were in her volleyball career, her most exciting and embarrassing moments as a Bruin and her favorite professor at UCLA.
UCLABruins.com: Friday is the big UCLA-USC match. How much more pumped up, if any, do you get for this match than the other matches during a season?
LG: There is definitely that rivalry aspect of things and that's always a lot of fun for us. But you have to treat it the same as every other match. You can't be too excited for just USC.
.com: Your two older sisters both played volleyball at Fresno State. Who was the first to get started with the game and when did you start playing?
LG: Lisa (24 years old) was first. Lacey (23) and I (21) were still in our soccer phase and we both started playing volleyball at the same time. I think I was eight when I started, but I was still playing soccer and that was more important to me. When I was around 15, I stopped playing soccer and concentrated on volleyball.
.com: How instrumental were your sisters into making you the volleyball player you are today?
LG: They definitely gave me some insight to the game. We all played different positions (Lisa setter, Lacey outside hitter), so that was helpful as well. Lisa would always tell me what her position liked and the same with Lacey. We were always peppering in the street and Lisa would always say `get your arm back' or `don't you hear that sound, that's what it's supposed to sound like.' I definitely listened to them and it was always a lot of fun playing together.
.com: How helpful has it been to have your family at most of your collegiate matches?
LG: It's always nice to have your family there, especially at games where not a lot of parents are able to attend. I always try to give them a wave before the game, just so I know they are there, and if they aren't there and I know they are supposed to be there, I stress out. I'll panic a little bit until I see my mom, dad or sister.
.com: How many matches would you say your family has missed?
LG: They missed Washington at home my sophomore year because it was my sister's senior night. They didn't go to Colorado this year. Sometimes only one will come. Last year my dad went to both Washington matches. This year my mom went to both Washington matches, so they trade off. But they've been to every single home game except for that Washington match. They've only missed a handful of matches, if that.
.com: Your sisters stayed close to home for college, but you decided to come to UCLA. Was there any thought of going to school in Northern California?
LG: There was talk about me maybe going to Santa Clara, which is right around the corner from my house (in San Jose). But I didn't even apply to college, which was bad, because I knew I was going to play volleyball. So I kind of waited and I think I was the last person in my class to commit here. I had no idea. I was kind of just winging it and stayed relaxed throughout the whole process, and at the last minute I decided to go with UCLA. I didn't even tell my parents. I think (former coaches) Andy (Banachowski) and Kim (Jagd) ended up telling them.
.com: What do you enjoy the most about playing volleyball?
LG: The team aspect. I don't think I could ever play an individual sport. It would freak me out. I love not only having a team and having it be a group effort in every single win, but it's the off the court aspect too. Having all these girls be so close, and we are all such good friends. I don't know how many friends I'd have if I played an individual sport. Some of my closest friends to this day played volleyball with me.
.com: You've officially had eight kills in your UCLA career. How exciting is it for you when one of your passes over the net finds the floor?
LG: My freshman year, before I became a libero, I played back row for Dicey (McGraw) and every single time I was calling for a `B', and Nellie (Spicer) said `why are you yelling, I'm not going to set you.' And I told her there is going to be a time where you are going to need to set me, and you are going to set me because I'm calling the ball. So she gave me a chance, I think it was against Arizona, I ripped one and I actually got a kill, and I said `see you should set me more.' During my sophomore year at Fullerton, Bo (Todorovic) was libero and I was trying to go for swings and I was hitting it right into the bottom of the net. It was just awful. But I've been lucky a few times. At Stanford (my sophomore year) I got a lucky one and the one against Oregon (this year) was just an over pass. I'm surprised they even counted that as a kill. It's always cool when it happens. I'll take it. Another stat that's not digging. My dad always loves that.
.com: What has been your most exciting moment on the volleyball court?
LG: There have been so many. Beating Stanford and Washington at home last year was pretty cool. But maybe tomorrow. We'll see. They are all really exciting, especially when we knocked off the #1-ranked team last year in Stanford. But every win is pretty cool. But I'm going to go with tomorrow.
.com: What will you miss the most about your time at UCLA?
LG: That's tough. There are so many different aspects of UCLA that I'm going to miss. Just being on the team and all the girls. When I'm not going to have to go to practice and I'm not going to see these girls every day, I'll miss that.
.com: What will you miss the least?
LG: Doing dynamic three times a day. And weights. That's a close second.
.com: What has been your most embarrassing moment that you had a good laugh about?
LG: I have a lot of embarrassing moments with Katie Camp and Nikki Casale. I've laughed too hard on occasions and peed in my pants a few times. That was pretty awful. But they are so fun though. You can't help it. But I don't get too easily embarrassed. I just like to roll with it.
.com: If you didn't play volleyball, what sport would you play?
LG: I've always wanted to try out different stuff. Now that I'm older, I look back and wish I would have played tennis. I probably would love tennis. Also golf. I want to start playing those sports now that I'll be done with volleyball, but I don't know if my body can take tennis. But it'd still be soccer. Soccer is amazing. But I'm not in shape to run that far anymore. I loved the contact of soccer, because I was pretty aggressive.
.com: Go through your pre-game routine.
LG: I don't really believe in superstitions, but a lot of people on this team do. It's not a big deal if I forget to tie my right shoe before my left. But after serve and pass for every home match I go home because my parents are there and I hang out with them for a little bit. Then I come back and (athletic trainer) Tina (Tubbs) tapes my ankles. Then I go to the locker room and chill. The only thing that I always have to do is make sure I see my parents in the stands.
.com: What other UCLA athletic events do you like to attend?
LG: Baseball is my favorite to watch, especially since my boyfriend Marc (Navarro) was on the team last year. I also liked going to basketball games last year, but it's so hard to get tickets to that because you have to sign up and if you don't go you get banned for the year. So I'd always try and go with the recruits because you get good seats. Football games are cool, but the drive sucks, and I was the only one with a car and I always had to drive. I wish I would have gone to more soccer games. Gymnastics is pretty cool, but it looks painful. But it's pretty sick when they get a 10.0 and you get a free Pizookee from BJ's. That's awesome.
.com: What would you rather play on? Sport Court or hardwood?
LG: It depends, because with some of the hardwood you stick and when you dive you get some of the worst wood burns on your legs. But Stanford has really good wood. And ours isn't that bad. But it depends, because some schools' wood stinks. Oregon's new floor is bad. I got stuck so many times and I got the worst burn on my leg. But I don't really care.
.com: What is your favorite road arena to play in?
LG: Stanford. I really like the setup of their gym. It's a tight gym, but it's still big enough to accommodate crowds. Plus my entire family gets to go to that game, so that's always a good away trip to go on.
.com: What has been your favorite class at UCLA?
LG: Any of my education classes with Professor Bailis. I've taken three of her classes. She's the best and I've learned a lot from her. She's there because she likes teaching and I'm really affected by that. I like teachers who care and she's so nice.
.com: If you could travel anywhere around the world, where would it be?
LG: Australia. I just really want to go there. It seems like a serene place. I want to go somewhere where I'd have no idea of what I'm going to do when I get there. I don't really know what sights I want to see. I just want to go there.
.com: If you could have one super power, what would it be?
LG: I always wanted to be invisible, but I don't want to know if people are talking about me. But I've always wanted to know what the coaches are saying, like when Mike (Sealy) covers his mouth and he's talking and he thinks we don't think he's talking about us, but we definitely know he's talking about us. I'd like to know what they are saying sometimes. I'd also like to be able to transport because traffic is so bad here. I hate driving. And I hate walking down the hill to class.
.com: If you could trade places for a day with a celebrity, who would it be?
LG: I would trade places with anyone on the San Jose Sharks hockey team, because the Sharks are amazing. Or (San Francisco Giants baseball pitcher) Tim Lincecum.
.com: What are the best and worst things about traveling with the team?
LG: The best thing is you have a lot of free time to nap and when you are here you don't really think about napping because you have so much other stuff to do. But when you go away, even though it's not a vacation and still a business trip, you have fewer things to think about. So you just have time to chill out. The worst thing is the traveling aspect in general. The Washington trip used to be the worst trip, but now it's the Utah-Colorado trip.
.com: What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
LG: What spare time? I definitely try to keep busy. Right now I baby-sit because I need money. Coaching is also starting back up. I always try to keep myself busy, because if I don't have anything to do I'll just lay around all day.
.com: What is your favorite part about Thanksgiving?
LG: Being with family and drinking Martinelli's. That stuff is the best. You always know it's the holiday season when that stuff comes around. And pumpkin pie. I don't really eat that much when it comes to the meal. I'll probably have some turkey, mashed potatoes, salad and bread. But I won't each that much and I'll have a fat piece of pumpkin pie. I miss behind home for Thanksgiving. This is the fifth one because I was in San Diego for soccer one year. It's a little bit of a burden, but my family comes down here, so it's OK. My freshman and sophomores years we went to our house in Palm Springs, because I was living in the dorms, but the last two years we've been doing it in my apartment.
.com: What is your biggest fear?
LG: My biggest fear would be not being happy. Nothing matters if you aren't happy. I don't want to get in a job where I'm not happy. I'd just be miserable.
.com: What is your favorite website?
LG: Rachael (Kidder) got me on StumbleUpon. I'm not really a big Facebook kind of person. I have a lot of interests on Stumble.
.com: Who has been the most influential person/people in your life?
LG: My family and every single one of them has played a big role in my life. My sisters have both gotten me into this sport. They've taught me a lot and supported me. I know it's really hard for them to come out sometimes because they miss the sport a lot. My mom and dad are always really proud of me.
.com: What are your post-UCLA plans?
LG: I haven't decided. I haven't totally taken volleyball out of the picture yet. We'll see about that after this season. I have a marketing internship right now, and I definitely want to go into that field eventually, but I don't know if I'm ready to start right after college or keep playing volleyball. I'll have to wait to answer that one.
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Lauren Van Orden