Story Links

Senior Spotlight: AJ Cushman

She didn’t even know if she wanted to play volleyball in college. But now, senior AJ Cushman is one of the most successful defensive players to ever play in Memorial Gymnasium.

A native of Richmond, Va., Cushman came to UVa as an outside hitter, but has grown to be one of the league’s top defenders. Entering the weekend with 231 digs this year, Cushman leads the team and is ranked second in the ACC.

“I was in high school and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to play in college,” Cushman said. “One night, I was up talking to my dad and I told him that I really didn’t know what to do. He said if I didn’t give it a shot, I would always wonder what could have been. So I decided I had to give it a shot.”

Focusing in on her technique when she arrived in Charlottesville, Cushman broke herself away from the offensive aspect of the game and has found a pride in shutting down her opponents ever since.

“It took a while to get used to not being a hitter,” Cushman said. “When I came to Virginia, I basically relied on my speed and athleticism, I didn’t really have a lot of technique. Then, especially when Coach Maes got here, my technique became so much better than it has ever been.

“Now, I get so pumped up when my teammates get blocks and kills. But I also really love when a hitter brings everything they have at you, or someone is serving their hardest, and you are able to handle it. It’s my job to frustrate the hitters.”

While Cushman has found success in frustrating her hitters, she has also made her mark in Virginia’s record books. In addition to becoming the 14th Cavalier to reach the 1,000 digs plateau, Cushman has also cracked into the program’s all-time top-10 career records for digs. With a four-year total of 1,120 and 17 more matches this season, Cushman enters the weekend ranked ninth in UVa’s record book.

But as her final season winds down, Cushman sums it up best when she says, “I gave it a shot and I’ve ended up loving it.

“I love my team, I love the support that we get from everybody and I love playing in this gym. There’s so much that I’m going to take away from my time here. In the aspect of the team, it’s about being a family. I know I am going to be friends with these girls for the rest of my life.”

Print Friendly Version