Thursdays With ... Rachael Kidder

Aug. 18, 2011

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Every Thursday, will sit down with a member of the women's volleyball team. This week, we sit down with junior Rachael Kidder, who talks about the first week of preseason practices, her breakout sophomore season and her love of all things country and NASCAR. One week of practice is in the books. How are things going so far?
Rachael Kidder: They are going really well. I think everyone is working really hard and trying to figure out how our system is going to work, trying to get the offense going and bringing the freshmen in so they know how we do things. Everyone has the same mindset and we are all focused on the same goal.

.com: What did you do during the offseason to prepare for the season?
RK: I was here for summer school, so I was lifting in the weight room as much as I could. We had open gym a couple nights a week, where we could just go in and play, and that was pretty productive. I was trying to get as many touches and reps in the weight room as I could.

.com: Your father was a four-year offensive lineman for the UCLA football team. Did you grow up knowing you wanted to be a Bruin?
RK: That was the main reason I was a UCLA fan in the first place. Growing up in a UCLA family really helped me like this school a lot, so once I got the chance to take a visit here and actually see the campus I fell in love with it. It was just as I hoped it would be and the perfect place for me to go to school and play volleyball.

.com: How do you feel your game has improved from your freshman season to your sophomore season?
RK: Last year I had a bigger role on the team, so I feel I matured a lot, whereas freshman year I didn't really have a big role so I didn't take everything as seriously as I should have. Coming into a bigger role, I definitely knew I had to be more mature and work even harder. I thought I got a lot stronger. That was one of my main goals, jumping higher, just being more of a physical player, whereas my freshman year I was kind of long and lanky and I had no muscle.

.com: Now that you are an upperclassman, do you feel you have an added role as a leader on the team?
RK: My experience definitely helps me have more confidence as a leader. Obviously I still look up to the seniors as the leaders of the team, but I think younger girls can look up to me as a leader because I've been here and I know how the system works. But I'm trying to take more of a leadership role.

.com: Last year's win against #1 Stanford, in which you had a career-high 25 kills and your first double-double, was your coming out party. What do you remember the most from that match?
RK: I remember feeling different than I ever felt in any other match before. I'm not the most energetic player and usually I just stick with the physical aspect and I'm not that emotional. But something clicked in the match and I wanted it really bad. I was more talkative and I left everything out there. I made sure I talked to my teammates a lot so they knew I was there and they knew I was OK. I put everything out there, my voice, my attitude, everything changed and it worked because I think that was one of the best matches I've had here.

.com: In that fifth set, you had seven of the team's 10 kills. Is there such a thing as being in the zone as an attacker?
RK: There are definitely times where right when the ball is set you know you are going to get a kill. I remember that game specifically because one of my biggest fears is trying to tool the block on purpose. I hate trying to hit a ball off a blocker's hands because I don't have good aim and it's not one of my strong suits. But I remember it was game point and Mike (Sealy) looked at me and was like, "hit this ball off of that girl's hands," and I was like "oh my gosh, that's exactly what I don't want to do right now." But Lauren (Van Orden) set me the ball and I knew I had to do it and I hit it right off her hands and got the kill and we won. You definitely get in a zone where you do things you don't even think you can do, but you just do it because you are so focused and you want to win so badly.

.com: What does this team need to do better in order to advance past the second round of the NCAA Tournament?
RK: We need to be more consistent throughout the whole year. The past two years we've let a couple games slip that we shouldn't have, which I think hurts us in the long run. We need to stay focused the whole time, because when our team is really focused and doing everything we can, we are great. But there are too many times where we don't stick to what we know we need to do and that's when we lose games we shouldn't lose. We can't take nights off like we did against American (in the first round of the NCAA Tournament) last year and almost lose in the first round.

.com: Go through your pre-game routine?
RK: I don't think there is anything specific that I do each game day. I make sure that I get up at a good hour and don't sleep too much and get a good breakfast. I get really focused during our pre-game serve and pass. Any time we are on the court before the game, all I'm thinking about is the game, I'm not thinking about anything else. In the locker room, we have our fun. We dance around, well they dance, I don't dance. We joke around and stuff, but as the game gets closer it becomes very serious in the locker room. I look over the scouting report and make sure I know what my responsibilities are. I don't really have any superstitions. I wear my hair the same every game, because I feel weird changing it up sometimes.

.com: What do you enjoy the most about playing volleyball?
RK: Being on a team is awesome. That's the main thing I like about it. I like the competition, but it's so much better to compete with a group of people than competing by yourself. It feels so much better when you do what you are supposed to do and you are doing it for the girls around you, not just for yourself.

.com: You obviously register a lot of kills, but what is more exciting for you: when you make a great dig or a great block?
RK: I get really excited when I get a dig because I don't play much defense. But I think one of the greatest feelings in volleyball is getting a solo block because it's you versus that hitter and if you block her it's just all you.

.com: What has been your most exciting moment at UCLA?
RK: Our home game against Stanford last year. That was really exciting for me because I stepped out of my shell completely and realized what I could do as a volleyball player. It wasn't even about the numbers, because my numbers weren't that great. I mean I had 25 kills, but my hitting percentage wasn't what it should have been. But that didn't matter to me because I felt so good about everything else I did during that game. I think that was the most exciting, realizing that's the path I can take in volleyball and I can be that player.

.com: If you didn't play volleyball, what sport would you play?
RK: I played basketball and was a jumper in track in high school. I think I would still be playing basketball. I played it for a long time, but I just lost interest.

.com: What is your favorite thing to do/place to hang out in Los Angeles?
RK: I like to go down to Westwood and go into the shops or see a movie and eat at the restaurants down there. I don't really get out much honestly, but if I do it's just in Westwood.

.com: Worse look? Michael Sealy's hair right now or his moustache last year?
RK: I kind of like long hair, but for some reason he just isn't pulling it off.

.com: What other UCLA athletic events do you like to attend?
RK: I love football games, but we can't go too much because of our schedule. I really like going to basketball games because the atmosphere is crazy and it's great to be a part of that crowd. I try to catch some water polo games because my little sister plays, so I kind of know the sport and I think it's really fun to watch.

.com: What has been your favorite class at UCLA?
RK: It would be a tie between a music history class I took, history of rock and roll, because I thought we learned about some pretty good songs and it was a really cool class in general. And also my Romanian class I took this summer because I was in it with a bunch of girls from the team and it was all athletes and it was really fun and easy.

.com: You are the biggest country music fan on the team. When you are at an arena or with your teammates in a van and a country song comes on, how excited do you get?
RK: I get really excited. I try to tell whatever van I'm in that we get at least one country song on the way there, especially to the game. But there is a solid group of people on the team that like country. I just don't think people like listening to it as much as I do. I would listen to it before a game, but others are listening to rap or whatever.

.com: What is your biggest fear?
RK: Ending up alone. I would hate that, to just be alone and have no one there. But I'm also really scared of sharks. They scare me to death, which is why I don't go into the ocean.

.com: Who is the team's class clown?
RK: That's a tough one. We are a really funny team because everyone is so goofy. But I'd say either Nikki (Casale) or Kelly (Reeves). They don't have the same personality, but they are both hilarious. Every time I'm around either of them I'm cracking up the whole time.

.com: If you could trade places with a celebrity for a day, who would it be?
RK: Carrie Underwood, because I think she is perfect and it'd be really cool to see what a day in a life of a singer is. Because it's something I cannot do at all. I'd love to have a good voice for one day.

.com: If you could travel anywhere around the world, where would it be?
RK: I really want to go to Ireland. For some reason I really want to go there and I think it would be cool.

.com: What are the best and worst things about traveling?
RK: The best would be getting to see different states during the Fall. I love going to Oregon because it's very pretty and all the leaves are different and I like the weather when it's actually kind of cold and windy, which is my favorite weather. I hate short plane rides, so that would be the worst, because you sit on the plane and there isn't enough time to go to sleep so you are forced to just sit there.

.com: Who is your favorite professional athlete?
RK: I'm a huge NASCAR fan and a fan of Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman. Everyone else on the team makes fun of me because nobody likes NASCAR and they all think I'm crazy. Every Sunday I watch the entire race and they are like "what are you doing?" I like it a lot though. I find it really interesting.

.com: What is your favorite road arena to play in?
RK: Cal, because it's so loud. And I know that seems like it'd be really annoying, but it makes everything feel so much more intense. Their fans are crazy and I like the atmosphere in there. The band is right next to you and it forces us to be really loud and dialed in to what's going on so we know what each of us are saying and doing on the court.

.com: What song would you sing for your American Idol audition?
RK: Let Me Down Easy by Billy Currington. Because Kelly and I are obsessed with that song and we sing it every day.

.com: What is your favorite website?
RK: Probably Facebook. I'm not a huge internet browser, but I go on Facebook a lot when I'm bored.

.com: If you could have one super power, what would it be?
RK: I'd say to be able to fly or to time travel. That'd be really cool. I'd like to go to Colonial America probably. I really want to see what that's like, I don't know why.

.com: Who has been the most influential person in your life?
RK: Definitely my parents. They are both extremely supportive of everything I do. Neither of them have forced me to do anything or tried to sway me to go to UCLA. My dad wouldn't have cared if I didn't go here. He would have supported me no matter where I went. I think they really just want me to be successful. No matter what path I choose they are going to back me up. They've definitely influenced me a lot in my life.

Previous Thursdays With ...
Sara Sage
Katie Camp

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