Aug. 4, 2011
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Every Thursday, UCLABruins.com will sit down with a member of the women's volleyball team. This week, we sit down with senior Sara Sage, who talks about her recovery from offseason shoulder surgery, the differences between Huron, Ohio and Los Angeles and her final year in Westwood.
UCLABruins.com: You had right shoulder surgery in April. How is the recovery process going? What did you do during the offseason?
Sara Sage: It has progressed really well. I haven't had any setbacks yet. There is absolutely no reason why I shouldn't able to be back full swing. I'll miss the beginning parts of preseason, but once season starts, I'll be ready to go. I do rehab every day for an hour, an hour and a half, and then I go work out. At the beginning of summer school, I was doing stuff in the weight room and recently I've been doing a lot more conditioning and volleyball-related activities.
.com: You've had a shoulder surgery and three knee surgeries. Do you get worried when you go under the knife?
SS: I don't get too worried, because when I have surgeries I research the surgeon, so you know you are in the hands of good people. My worry is what are you going to do after the surgery, the rehab and all that stuff. Like with my knee, I came back way too soon, so if I would have just been smart in high school, take my time, I would have never had to have two more surgeries. And I'll probably have to have a knee replacement when I'm older.
.com: How often do you make it back to Ohio? What aspect of Ohio do you miss the most?
SS: Not enough. I go home for about a week during summer and during winter break after volleyball season is over and sometimes I'll go home during spring break, but only three times a year max.
.com: What aspect of Ohio do you miss the most?
SS: I always go to Tofts Ice Cream. It's the best ice cream you'll find ever. And Costa Azul is my favorite Mexican restaurant. I know all the guys that work there. Those are my two favorite places. And I always like going back to the people, because everyone is like "Hey, how are you doing?" and smile and here it's like pulling teeth to get someone to smile at you. In Huron, everybody knows everybody. When you are younger, you just want to get out of there, but then once you have matured, you realize how special that is.
.com: How often do your parents make it to your matches?
SS: In the past, they try to come out once a month. I know that they are going to try and come out a lot more this year since it is my senior year. It's kind of weird, because I've adapted to being away so that when I come home it's almost like a holiday. So it'll be nice if they can come out more. My brother Sam lives out here now, he moved out here after Easter, so I see him every once in a while. But I know he is going to plan on coming to a lot of matches. And I'm keeping my fingers crossed, but for Thanksgiving my entire family is saying they are going to come out here for Senior Night (Nov. 25 vs. USC), so it would be awesome if that happened.
.com: What is the biggest difference between living in Ohio and Los Angeles?
SS: The pace. Everything is fast paced, go-go-go here and back home it's like "Oh, look at the flowers and the sunset is pretty." I feel people enjoy life more back home and they don't take much for granted. And out here it's like "What money can I make or what can I do with my life?" and you don't really stop and smell the roses. I prefer a mix of both. That's why whenever I go home it's perfect timing. I'm out here all fall and then I go home after the season and I can relax. Then you come back out here for Winter and Spring quarter and you get back to that mentality and then you get to go home for a week before summer school and get back to your roots. So I like to get a mix of both, which is nice.
.com: Do you feel you have an added role as a senior this season?
SS: I think our class is going to have stronger roles, whether that's on the court playing or off the court leading people. I think it's kind of similar to last year's role because all of us (upperclassmen) felt like we were in the same grade. This year we have high standards that we are going to try and meet, which we haven't met the last few years. We are going to do everything in our power to make that happen and bring a championship back to UCLA because it's been a while.
.com: What advice would you give to the freshmen about their first year?
SS: My advice would be don't wait. Because for freshmen it's usually like "Oh it's my freshman year and I have time." Don't wait. You know what you need to do. If you think you didn't work out enough, go take care of it. Don't wait for someone else to take care of it for you. When I was a freshman I was like "I shouldn't do this or I shouldn't do that." Just go do it. You are a Division I athlete. Don't wait for someone to tell you what to do. Whether it's school, if you feel like you're getting behind, go talk to your professor. Because if you slip up for a week, you're done.
.com: Go through your pre-game routine?
SS: I don't have the same exact routine. I did that in high school and if it gets thrown off then your whole day is thrown off, but I still kind of have an idea of what I do. When I wake up, I try and get a nice breakfast and then for about an hour I just try and clear my mind of everything so I can relax. Then once I'm relaxed, I start to focus on our game plan. I'll look over all the notes that we have and remember the video. Once it gets closer to game time, I'm a big music person. I just turn it on and then I get going. The past couple years, we didn't do it as much last year, but I'd always dance. Nikki (Casale) and I would dance in the locker room and our sweat would be dripping just from that and you get amped and ready to go. Last year in Texas (during the NCAA Tournament), we got it going really good in there.
.com: What do you enjoy the most about playing volleyball?
SS: The camaraderie that we have. I love to compete, but it's so fun to do it as a team. Like during the Stanford match last year, we were one unit and we did it together and that's what I really enjoy.
.com: What has been your most exciting moment at UCLA?
SS: During my sophomore year, it was the Cal-Stanford weekend and we hadn't beat Stanford in a while. And Katie (Camp) was sick, so she couldn't even travel with us. During that Cal match was the best I had played in a long time. So I stepped in to play and (then setter) Lauren Cook was setting and there was one set I remember the most where it was almost an over pass and she just tipped it up with one hand, a perfect set, and I just killed it. And then we went in there and beat Stanford for the first time in nine years. It's pretty tough to beat that moment.
.com: What will you miss the most about your time at UCLA?
SS: Being a student-athlete. We always have the same routine, wake up, go to practice, go to class, eat, video, whatever. And when I'm done, it's like I don't know what I'm going to do. I'm graduating in December, so after Fall I'm done and I'm on my own. No more free gear, no more being pampered. We've been spoiled and now that you get close to not having it anymore you actually realize how blessed you've been.
.com: What will you miss the least?
SS: Probably running out on Spaulding Field. Doing that conditioning just kicks your butt. I mean, I like to work out, but sometimes not being able to walk afterwards, I'll probably miss that the least.
.com: What has been your most embarrassing moment that you had a good laugh about?
SS: I think it was against Arizona, my freshman or sophomore year, and I remember throwing t-shirts into the crowd. And Mora (Kanim, then Director of Operations) said to get it to the upper level because we have a lot of kids up there. And I was like "OK, I'm really going to whip it up there." So I wind up and when I release, it goes up above the scoreboard and doesn't even make it into the stands. And I was like "My bad". So they just grabbed it and threw it up into the stands. Because they told you not to throw it overhand, so I was just going to underhand it, but I tried too hard I guess.
.com: What part of your game do you feel you have improved the most on in your four years?
SS: I feel like I'm more mentally tough. More mentally independent. Because when you are in high school or your freshman year in college you rely on your coaches more to tell you what you need to work on. But over the last few years, I've tried to figure it out on my own a little more. So I've learned to be inside my body, so I know if I'm doing something wrong. I've become my own coach in a way. I've learned to adapt to different situations and realize when I'm doing something right or something wrong. So I don't necessarily need the coaches there to explain what's going on and that's something that comes with experience.
.com: What is your favorite road arena to play in?
SS: I love going to Northern California. Cal is my favorite. It's just so loud, even if there aren't a lot of people there. And you get into it. Hawaii is fun because they are very knowledgeable. No matter who the team is, they are going to cheer for you.
.com: What other UCLA athletic events do you like to attend?
SS: I went to a lot of basketball games last year. Football games are always fun, but it's far away to get to. I like to go and check out at least one game from each team every year.
.com: What has been your favorite class at UCLA?
SS: I really enjoyed the Romanian class I took this summer. There are a lot of athletes in it and the teacher is amazing.
.com: What is your favorite website?
SS: Google.com. I like to Google different things, whatever interests me at the moment. So right now I'm trying to find a job, so I Google pharmaceutical sales companies to do a lot of research.
.com: If you could trade places with a celebrity for a day, who would it be?
SS: Beyonce. I love her swagger. I don't necessarily want to be like her, but I want to have the confidence that she has.
.com: If you could travel anywhere around the world, where would it be?
SS: I've always wanted to go to Australia or New Zealand. It seems so laid back and easy going.
.com: What is your biggest fear?
SS: Spiders. Really bugs in general. I remember my freshman year we were in Hawaii and before the game I went to go to the bathroom and a cockroach came out from under the seat. So ever since then, whenever we go back to Hawaii, I always check every single little crevice. I get the heebeegeebees just thinking about it.
.com: If you could have one super power, what would it be?
SS: I've always said that I'd want to fly, because it would save me money on airplane tickets. I mean, if I could fly I'd go home right now. You don't have to pay for gas.
.com: Who is your favorite professional athlete?
SS: I've always liked athletes that were modest and don't need all the flash and pizzazz. After Derek Jeter got his 3,000th hit, I listened to his interviews and I didn't realize how modest he was. I pictured him as a Yankee and not being the most modest person, but after listening to him speak, it really made me respect him. I also like Dwayne Wade. When LeBron James was still with the Cleveland Cavaliers, I saw them play the Miami Heat. And DWade just took control. LeBron would be over there making all these dance moves and Dwayne is just doing his thing. He didn't need the flash, he didn't need all that stuff.
.com: Who has been the most influential person in your life?
SS: My parents. Both of them support me all the time. My mom has gone to everything with me. My dad would go when he could, but he was always back home working. But they've both been the best role models. My parents are the best people I know and people don't realize that until it's too late sometimes. They are amazing people.
.com: What are your post-UCLA plans?
SS: I'm working on that right now. A lot of it depends on how this year goes. I would like to play overseas, but if I get a job offer, especially in this economy, I'm not going to pass that up. I'm really looking into pharmaceutical sales, so I've been applying to a lot of different firms, so hopefully something comes up. I plan on staying in California.