Outside Hitter Carly Payan talks about how she came to UL, the rigors of being a student-athlete, and the upcoming volleyball season.

Carly Payan, Ragin' Cajuns Volleyball, University of LouisianaHow does a girl from the prairies of Illinois end up in the swamps of Louisiana?

Kind of by chance. I was looking for a place to go after junior college, and one of the UL coaches had gotten my name somehow. My JC coach told me there was a school in Louisiana who was interested in two of us on the team. I said, "You're sending me down to Hurricaneville!"

Then I visited the campus and fell in love with it.

How so?

The campus was beautiful, the oaks were beautiful. It was a big campus with a small-town feel. There were a lot of students, but they didn't treat you like you were just another number; the faculty knew who you were, the athletic department knew who you were, and I just felt like I fit in.

Tell us about your background.

I came from a small high school, out past the Chicago suburbs. I wanted to play Division I really bad, but I wasn't physically or mentally or emotionally prepared. So I went to a JC and got a lot of experience. But I wanted to go somewhere warm. I think my parents would have a heart attack if I stayed in Louisiana too long.

Is that a possibility?

Yeah, it is a possibility. I'm not sure what I want to do after I graduate. My major is Elementary Education, and I think I want to get a Masters in Social Work. I'm not sure if I'll stay in the South.

I like being in Lafayette. There's a little bit of a culture shock, and I learn something new every day. The food is different, the accents, the language, and calling everyone "Miss," or "Ma'am," or "Baby," or "Boo." It's just very different.

But in a good way.

What's the Midwest like?

Everyone says the Midwest is a little more rude, but I see it as a little more fast-paced, everyone is focused on their own thing.

Everyone here is a little friendlier, and a little slower-paced. I remember when I came down for my interview, there was a car stopped in the middle of the street with the window rolled down, and the driver was talking to someone. There was a line of cars backed up behind it.

I was thinking, "Why isn't anyone honking?"

You have a new coach.

We're so excited about having Coach Mazeitis. She has just come in with a new attitude of leaving everything in the past... what happened, happened. She has so many new ideas, and she's so full of energy. She's taking everything in, and has put a lot of work into the program in the short time she's been here. We appreciate everything she's doing.

And she's enjoying UL. The other day she said to me, "Everything's going so right, I'm worried that someone's going to tell me this is just a dream." She's just so happy to be here.

So what are your goals?

I definitely want us to break .500 this season-- and that's doable, given our schedule. We want to change our reputation in the Conference. Instead of being on the bottom, we want to win, and we want to become a team to beat. We want to become a force to be reckoned with.

This is such a great community to be in. The way people support UL is awesome, but we haven't had a winning program. So Coach is getting us out into the community, getting us on the radio, working to get students to come to games. She has a whole bunch of promotions planned for the fall. She wants to throw stuff out to the crowds, and she has ways for the crowds to interact with the team, to make it a fun event, so that everyone wants to go.

Talk about being a student-athlete.

It can be tough. Especially in the fall, because we miss 7 or 8 Thursday-Friday class schedules. The student-athlete academic center works hard to get us a good schedule, so that we miss as few classes as possible on those days. Most of the faculty will work with us, because they know how hard it is.

Coach will make sure on road trips that we have study-hall hours, and that we have quiet time on the bus or at the hotel, so that we have time to study.

Even still, you have long days.

Exactly. Sometimes we'll lift weights first thing in the morning, go straight to class-- I think I go straight through from 8:00 to 4:00 on Mondays and Wednesdays. And then we go right to practice after that.

In the fall we'll have 19 girls on the roster, so we'll have three courts working at practice. The coaches are distributed so that there are always a pair of eyes on you. Practice will be 2-3 hours; with 19 girls it will be highly competitive, so there's never a day that you can slack off. Then we'll have dinner, and study, and get some sleep so we won't be so tired the next day.

We start our pre-season on August 8th, and school doesn't start until the 26th. So for about 2½ weeks we'll have weights, then individual practice-- the setters, the outside hitters, middle hitters, right-side hitters, the defensive specialists/back-row girls-- each will have their own practice, 2 to 3 hours. After we work on our positions, we go to lunch. After that we'll go to a classroom session where we'll watch video, do pen and paper stuff. Then we'll have a couple of hours off for ourselves. Then we go to dinner as a team, and then we'll have a 3-4 hour practice session. We'll do that until school starts.

We eat every meal together, we're basically together all the time. It's good bonding time, because we're bringing in the new girls.

You'll be graduating soon. What will you miss most about UL?

I will definitely miss the bonds with the team. We're great friends off the court, we get along very well.

I suppose I'll miss the routine. We're pretty scheduled. It's nice because you don't have any spare time. You know when you're going to be studying, you know when you'll be sleeping.

And I'll probably miss the spicy food I've gotten used to. When I first came down, they'd all make fun of me because I thought all the food was too spicy. It was a big joke to see if Carly would eat it or not.

Now I come home, and everything seems so bland.