UC Davis Women’s Volleyball star senior gives insight into her athletic career
As students, we often have lives filled with constant “going” and rarely any breaks. Student athletes balance the stressors of school and everyday life on top of the mental and physical demands of playing a Division I sport. When it comes to balancing a busy life while excelling at one’s sport, UC Davis Women’s Volleyball senior outside hitter and team captain Lauren Matias leads by example for younger athletes.
Matias is a versatile, powerhouse player for the Aggies. Offensively, Matias has tallied over 900 kills in her career and a 2.75 kills per set ratio. On defense, she has amassed 492 digs thus far in her career. Going into the last three matches of the season, Matias leads all Aggies with 360 kills, is second on the team with 234 digs and has recorded 38 blocks
Over the past three seasons, the Santa Cruz, Calif. native has accrued several accolades, such as All-Big West Freshmen Team in 2016 and multiple Big West Academic All-Conference Honors. The senior is now eyeing new achievements as she is in reach for the UC Davis single-season kills record. Through 23 matches, Matias ranks among the Big West Conference leaders in both total kills (fourth with 298) and kills per set (fifth, 3.65).
She is a leader on the court statistically, but also a leader as a role model off it. Matias discussed her role as a leader and how the past year has changed her in an interview with The California Aggie.
The California Aggie: How much has changed for you as a player since your freshman season? What in particular has changed the most for you?
Lauren Matias: I have changed immensely since my freshman season. I have matured so much as a leader and in my mental game. I was able to learn a lot of new skills while playing beach last spring. I gained so much confidence, learned a bunch of new shots, got into great shape, and dialed in on passing. These skills have transitioned so well into my indoor game and is helping me play at such a high level this season! Also, being a senior has transformed my work ethic because I am so competitive and determined to out-play some big-name teams. I also think my four years of experience has given me confidence and the ability to lead because our team is quite young.
TCA: As a captain, what do you do in order to help the team reach its goals?
LM: I understand my role on this team and my ability to lead by the way I play and the energy my play brings. If I want to see a change in how we are playing, I know I have the ability to make it. I think that’s a very rewarding position and one I’ve come to embrace. In addition to leading through my actions, I try and instill confidence in my teammates and help others remain calm in high pressure situations because I have the experience of dealing with them. But, most importantly, I fight everyday for my teammates, because I love what I do and I understand that I’ll have these memories forever, so that makes my job easier and takes pressure off of me.
TCA: How do you best prepare for a game mentally?
LM: I tend to put way too much pressure on myself, so I try to get as relaxed as possible and remember that I won’t change the way I play for any opponent. I try and instill confidence in myself by visualizing myself performing really well. I will usually get some extra serve and pass reps with my bestie and teammate Ally Reyes — it helps me get in some more touches so I am confident when it comes to game time and helps me stay loose and goofy.
TCA: What gets you on the court every game? Life can get busy and overwhelming, so how do you push yourself to play your hardest even if life may be piling up?
LM: By my senior year, I have definitely learned what works best for me and how I personally manage time. I love school, so I enjoy studying and being productive, but it does add up — especially with volleyball every day — and I just got a part time job at a local preschool. I think experience helps a ton when managing all your priorities and recognizing when it’s time to do each of your responsibilities to the best of your ability. When 3 p.m. comes daily, I need to drop all my worries, stress or pressure and focus on practice and my team. Also, I understand that every one of my teammates are doing the same things and feeling the same stress, so we are not alone. I also try to have perspective every day, this had been a huge change in my mindset this senior year. I remind myself, “Will I remember this loss, or this essay that is giving me anxiety, a week or a month from now? Probably not.” This helps me put my life into perspective and only worry about things that actually matter.
TCA: How have you grown athletically throughout your career as an Aggie?
LM: Throughout my four years, I’ve perfected what works and does not work for me as an athlete. I had some injuries in the middle of my career that held me back and with time I learned how I needed to better prepare myself. So, I continued to do that the rest of my time here and I am enjoying a happy and healthy senior year. I have also learned from all the great players that have come through this program and tried to imitate what worked well for them. I think the biggest change isn’t so much physically, but my mentality shift my senior year and knowing this is my last opportunity to hit my peak. Emotionally and mentally, I am a different athlete and I am so proud of my progress!
TCA: If you could give advice to your freshman self, what would it be?
LM: To stand up for what you believe in, don’t be afraid to show your emotions, and to understand you are worthy and good enough to be on the court.
TCA: What is your biggest piece of advice for younger players on the team?
LM: Put your teammates first 100% of the time. At the end of the day, you won’t
remember wins/losses, but the relationships you’ve made and the lessons you’ve learned. And, to calm down. Lessen the pressure on yourself because the real way to unlock your best potential is to play with confidence and to know within yourself that you are good enough. No one can create that for you, you need to believe in yourself. Also, this journey goes by fast so be grateful everyday and do not take anything for granted — these memories will be with you forever.
TCA: What do you believe are your core values as a leader?
LM: I believe I am a very supportive leader and I try and lead my team through my actions and my words. I try to embody what I want our program to form into and hope that others will follow. I make sure to hold myself accountable to the things I ask of my teammates to earn respect. I think having influence on others comes from earning their respect. I will always prioritize my teammates and support them through anything.
Written by: Frankie Veverka — firstname.lastname@example.org