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Rachel Clark is a freshman on the Virginia volleyball team. A member of head coach Lee Maes’ top-10 nationally ranked recruiting class, Clark came to Virginia as an outside hitter and is working to make the transition to the right side. Coming off a tough three-match trip to her hometown of Los Angeles she enters this week’s Marriott Cavalier Classic with 20 kills and 14 blocks in 16 set appearances.

This weekend, Clark looks to help Virginia start ACC play with a win, as the Cavaliers face conference foe Virginia Tech on Friday. Virginia will then play George Mason in the tournament finale on Saturday. Both matches are scheduled to start at 7 p.m. in Memorial Gymnasium.

Question: How exciting was it to return home and play this past weekend?
Clark: It was so exciting. A lot of my friends and family came to each match. My mom used to come to every single game, so not having her here has been hard. But knowing that she was there made me that much more excited and really feel at home.

Question: Had you ever played at USC or the Walter Pyramid before?
Clark: I had club tournaments at Long Beach’s Walter Pyramid and we had club practice at USC, so I had played in the Galen Center before, too.

Question: How were the crowds in those venues this weekend?
Clark: They were awesome; I loved it. I love big crowds and big gyms. It’s so much fun playing in it that environment; it makes me so excited.

Question: Were you guys able to do anything fun while you were out there?
Clark: Our academic advisor traveled with us, so when we had free time, we were usually studying. But, Coach Maes took us to some really good restaurants and on some scenic drives past the ocean. I think the best part was after the last game, though. I was able to go home and be with my family, and lay in my bed.

Question: You played against three of the best teams in the country. As a freshman trying to get adapted to the collegiate game, how tough were those teams to play against?
Clark: I had played against a lot of those players in club ball, since they’re from California. But what I’ve noticed since I’ve been at Virginia is that collegiate volleyball is way faster than what high school and club is about, so I’ve had to get acclimated to the pace to the game. And I’ve changed positions, so there’s a lot of learning going on and a lot of technique that’s different.

Question: Have you noticed a big different between west coast volleyball and east coast volleyball yet?
Clark: West coast, as we saw this weekend, is very intense. It’s a lot of big girls and powerhouse volleyball. I haven’t seen the ACC yet, so we’ll see how that is this weekend.

Question: What has been the most difficult thing to get used to so far?
Clark: I think just being so far from home. The environment is a lot different than what I’m used to and I really have to take care of myself, that’s been the hardest part. But having my team has made it that much easier, they’re like a family to me.

Question: Being from California, what made you decide to come to Virginia?
Clark: Academics. It’s unbeatable the education that you can get here. I was a little hesitant when I first got here because I had never been to this part of Virginia. On my visit though, when I woke up and looked outside, I knew that I wanted to be here. It was so pretty. I can always go back to California, so I knew I wanted a change and this was a great place to do it.

Question: The ACC opener is this weekend and there are a lot of young players on the team. Do you feel the upperclassmen have the younger players prepared for the rest of the season?
Clark: The older players have been through it all before so they’ve been so great and supportive with helping us get acclimated both on and off the court. They’ve definitely helped us in learning all of the new stuff.

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