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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Smashing Standards

So+far+in+her+freshman+season%2C+Samantha+Sanders%26%23160%3Bhas+a+total+of+19+sets+played%2C+six+matches+played%2C+and+four+matches+started.%26%23160%3B%26%23160%3B
Photo by Photo by Kevin Chou

So far in her freshman season, Samantha Sanders has a total of 19 sets played, six matches played, and four matches started.  

Progressing from high school to collegiate athletics is a big jump, but freshman volleyball player Samantha Sanders has made it seem easy.
Sanders’ volleyball career started in the sixth grade, playing at the middle block position. In high school, Sanders shifted to outside hitter, where she excelled at Midway and was named to the all-district first-team, all four years. She earned national recognition as well being named an Under Armour All-American Honorable Mention her senior year.
Sanders also found success in club volleyball, being named to the all-tournament team after leading her team to a silver medal in the 2017 USA Volleyball Girls Junior National Championship her senior year.
Growing up in Waco, Sanders always wanted to play for Baylor, and verbally committed there her senior year. However, Sanders changed her mind after taking an official recruiting visit to A&M.
“When I came here, it just kind of clicked. I fell in love with the team and the coaches and I knew it was where I wanted to be,” Sanders said.
Since coming to campus in July, Sanders has played a large role on the A&M volleyball team, starting her first game on Aug. 26 against VCU.
“I was very nervous. It was my first time playing in the gym, but overall I was just siked to get out and play,” Sanders said.
Despite her nerves, Sanders played well with four kills in the team’s straight-set victory. Sanders’ confidence was augmented after A&M head coach Laurie Corbelli elected to start Sanders the following game against No. 2 Penn State.
“I felt more comfortable in the Penn State game, it was my first start and that’s when I started to believe in myself because Coach [Corbelli] let me start in such a big game,” Sanders said.
Sanders played well in the match with four kills and just one error. Since then, Sanders has started in every match and has performed well against the top talent in the country as the Aggies have played four teams ranked in the Top-10 in the nation.
Aggie fans have also helped Sanders settle in with these big games and has given her more motivation to play her best.
“I knew [the 12th Man] was going to be a big crowd, but I had no idea it would be that many people,” Sanders said. “It honestly makes me want to play even better; it doesn’t make me nervous, it makes me want to impress the huge crowd.”
Sanders’ success comes as no surprise to Corbelli, who had high expectations for her when she entered the program.
“I’m not really surprised because I got to see her quite a bit in the last year especially,” Corbelli said. “She’s got all the skills from the back court skills to attacking and blocking, I’m really not surprised. I expected her to have a fantastic freshman season.”
A large part of Sanders’ success can be attributed to her competitive nature and strong work ethic, both of which have caught the eye of Corbelli.
“She’s a wonderful competitor, she wants to do her job as best as she can for her team,” Corbelli said. “She has a great work ethic, I never have to tell her to go harder. It’s just a coach’s dream in terms of attitude.”
Sanders’ intensity has rubbed off on her teammates, including senior outside hitter Kiara McGee.
“You can see it in her eyes and in her play, the fire within her and how she wants to go hard in every practice and game, it’s awesome to see,” McGee said.
On the court, Sanders is a force to be reckoned with. However, off the court she’s laid back and unintentionally goofy, McGee said.
“Sam’s really funny, like you’ll be laughing at her and she’ll be like ‘What?’ not even realizing it,” McGee said. “I think that’s the best thing about her, she can make people laugh and not even mean to.”
Part of Sanders’ smooth transition to A&M has been living with two of her teammates.
“I live with two other freshmen, so even when we go home, we get to bond and just live our lives off the court,” Sanders said.
One of her roommates is setter Camille Conner, who said she has built a special bond with Sanders.
“Samantha and I have so much fun together, living with each other, we’re always goofing around and having fun, but when we step on that court we’re very competitive and we’re there to win,” Conner said.
Though she has really come into her own and has established herself at the collegiate level, it’s easy to forget that Sanders’ just stepped on campus a few months ago and has yet to scratch the surface of what she can achieve.
“I think that she can be an all-SEC player and that would get her noticed as an up and coming outside hitter for Texas A&M that needs to be looked at for All-Region and All-American as she gets better and better,” Corbelli said. “I think that’s certainly within her capability.”
With Southeastern Conference play coming up, Sanders is focused on carrying the team bond that the Aggies have built into conference play, but she wants to have fun in doing so.
“I just want our whole team to carry this positive vibe throughout the season. I want to have a lot of success in the SEC but also have some fun too,” Sanders said.
The A&M volleyball team starts conference play on Friday, Sept. 22, at LSU at 7 p.m.

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