Thursdays With ... Nikki Casale

Dec. 8, 2011

Every Thursday, will sit down with a member of the women's volleyball team. In the final edition of Thursdays With ..., we chat with senior Nikki Casale, who talks about her title of team class clown, "The Squad" and her post-UCLA plans. What emotions do you have as you enter the final days of your collegiate volleyball career?
NC: There are a lot of emotions. I'm excited and ready to be done, but then I think about the fact that I have spent four years playing volleyball here and have met a lot of great people, and leaving those people will be sad for me.

.com: You have been considered by most throughout this "Thursdays With ..." series to be the class clown of the team. Where does that exuberance come from?
NC: It comes from my family. We are all pretty crazy and goofy, and we love dancing and having a good time. And I have three sisters, so we'd always compete for people's attention. I was actually a little shy when I was younger, but when I entered high school I wasn't afraid of what people thought of me. I like making people laugh.

.com: When and why did you start playing volleyball?
NC: I started playing in the eighth grade. I played soccer my whole life and I was burnt out, so I wanted a new sport. One of my soccer friends and I thought that volleyball sounded fun, so that's what we started to do. There are fewer injuries in volleyball, so that was exciting. I wasn't the best at the beginning, but it was really fun.

.com: What do you enjoy the most about playing volleyball?
NC: Being with the team. It's such a great feeling getting together and having one common goal. You don't see that too often in other aspects of your life. So when you are put in the gym together and work really hard, when things go great that is one of the best feelings.

.com: What has been your most exciting moment on the volleyball court?
NC: Last year at home against Stanford. I was put in for one point and had to pass middle back. The weird thing is I wasn't nervous at all. I just felt like I was in a weird dream. But beating them at home, and the crowd was intense, it was the best game I've been a part of.

.com: What will you miss the most about your time at UCLA?
NC: The girls who I've created such great relationships with. You have your friends outside of sports, but your friends inside sports you connect with on a deeper level. You go through those times where you want to kill each other, but you also have those moments where you are on insane highs. You've been through everything with them and they become part of your family.

.com: What will you miss the least?
NC: Writing essays, considering I have to stay up pretty late to write them. This year has been a killer so far with essays. I think I'm on essay number five just in the first quarter. I'm really looking forward to not having to do that anymore.

.com: What has been your most embarrassing moment that you had a good laugh about?
NC: Freshman year I had conditioning in the winter and my alarm didn't go off. I think I set it for PM instead of AM. Conditioning was at 8 a.m., so I get a call at like 7:52 asking `Nikki, where are you?' So I throw on my clothes as fast as I can and I'm sprinting down the hill and it's pouring rain so it's really slippery. Everyone is lined up ready to go and I get there right on time. That was pretty embarrassing.

.com: If you didn't play volleyball, what sport would you play?
NC: Soccer because I love it. I really like physical sports, so maybe football or rugby. I miss that with volleyball. I wish we could tackle on the other side of the net.

.com: Go through your pre-game routine.
NC: I'm not really superstitious. The only thing I have become superstitious about is the dance that we do before every match, and you can thank me for that because I came up with those amazing moves.

.com: Where do you foresee "The Squad" going after you are gone?
NC: Well it's obviously not going to be as great. I know there are a few recruitments right now, and I'm sure whoever steps up to fill my spot will be pretty good. I'll have to come back to a couple games to make sure they are on it.

.com: What other UCLA athletic events do you like to attend?
NC: Basketball games are always fun. Football games whenever we can. My freshman year when I'd walk back up to the dorms, Katie (Camp) and I would always watch tennis play. Soccer games are always fun. Men's volleyball also obviously.

.com: What would you rather play on? Sport Court or hardwood?
NC: Sport Court for sure, because when you dive you just fly and on wood you get stuck and get really nasty burns.

.com: If you could travel anywhere around the world, where would it be?
NC: I would love to go to Greece and Italy. Greece because it's so beautiful and there is so much outstanding architecture. Italy because I'm Italian and my grandparents are Sicilian. It'd be cool to go back to my roots.

.com: If you could have one super power, what would it be?
NC: To be able to play the song of my choice at any moment and have everyone break out in synchronized dance, because if you are having a bad day it would make everything so much better.

.com: If you could trade places for a day with a celebrity, who would it be?
NC: Surfer Alana Blanchard, because I think that surfing would be the coolest job in the entire world.

.com: Who is your favorite professional athlete?
NC: Andre Agassi. I've always grown up watching tennis on TV with my family and he always had so much personality when he played, and he was so much fun to watch.

.com: What has been your favorite class at UCLA?
NC: I took a theater class my freshman year with a lot of the volleyball girls and it was really fun. It was obviously out of all of our elements, but it was fun sitting there knowing that none of us were good at theater.

.com: What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
NC: When I have spare time, I love going to the beach and hanging out with family and friends.

.com: What is your favorite part about the holiday season?
NC: I love all the decorations, music and lights. It always gets me in such a great mood. And I love how Starbucks always changes everything for the holiday that's going on. The holidays to me always mean that there is a lot more family time, so that's exciting. And I love giving gifts too.

.com: What is your biggest fear?
NC: My biggest fear is that a loved one will die unexpectedly. That would be hard.

.com: Who has been the most influential person/people in your life?
NC: My family in general, but more specifically my parents, because they have sacrificed so much for my sisters and I. It means so much to me that they have always supported me no matter what and I hope I can repay them one day for all that they've done.

.com: What are your post-UCLA plans?
NC: At this point, everything is open. I'm still trying to figure out what I want to do. It's easy to get stuck in some job that you're not really into, which I might have to do if I don't find anything else. But right now I'm coaching two club teams and that's fun for right now. I don't know if I see a career in coaching. There is going to be some point in my life where I need to step away from volleyball. But we'll see what comes up. I want to work with people though for sure.

Previous Thursdays With ...
Sara Sage
Katie Camp
Rachael Kidder
Kelly Reeves
Megan Moenoa
Tabi Love
Mariana Aquino
Bojana Todorovic
Lauren Van Orden
Karsta Lowe
Priscilla Duke-Ezeji
Olivia Okoro
Zoë Nightingale
Madie Smith
Meg Norton
Jenna Scilacci
Lainey Gera

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