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Freshman defensive specialist Sydney Shelton recently checked in with to talk about her first year at UVa, the transition from high school to college and the difference between the West Coast and the East Coast.

Question: What is the biggest adjustment you have had to make from high school/club volleyball to Division I volleyball?
The biggest adjustment I would say is the pace of the game. The players are a lot bigger, stronger and smarter. Another adjustment is that the coaches expect a lot out of us, both on and off the court.

Question: As a defensive specialist, sometimes you get thrown into the game without warning, how do you stay ready for action?
I stay ready for the action by always being engaged in the game and knowing I can contribute at any second. Mental toughness is really important for a passer, especially in serve receive, and I always want the ball.

Question: What is the most important skill a defensive specialist needs to master to become the best?
I would say the most important skill for a DS is the ability to read the ball because it can apply to both serve receive and digging. By reading, I am able to get a better position and make a good play.

Question: Being from California, how did you end up coming to Virginia?
I saw a great opportunity to come to a beautiful school that had both incredible academics and athletics. I didn’t know much about the ACC, being from the West, but once I found out how competitive it was, I was sold. I was never looking to go to college in California. I wanted to get out and experience something different.

Question: What was the biggest factor in your decision to come to UVa?
Besides the fact I fell in love with the campus after I saw it, the biggest factor was the perfect combination of academics and athletics. It’s a very prestigious school and I knew I would be able to pursue a kinesiology degree.

Question: What is the biggest difference between living on the West and East Coasts?
People on the East Coast are a lot friendlier! You pass by strangers that you don’t even know and they smile and make sure to say good morning. This wasn’t very common at home. It is also a lot greener with all the pretty trees!

Question: What is your favorite part of UVa so far?
This may sound like I am a volleydork, but my favorite part of UVa is my team. When I’m not in the gym, the weight room, training room, or on a plane, bus or even an ice bath with them, I still spend all my time with them. I am fortunate enough to have a genuine group of girls who have good values and are down to earth. I see these friendships carrying on throughout my life.

Question: What is your favorite class you have taken so far?
My favorite class I have taken so far is personality psychology. It’s a very challenging class, but I enjoy really it. I have started to notice different personality traits and even disorders in people involved in every day life.

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