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Thursday, April 18, 2024
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volleyball final 2021

Powerhouse Zeynep Uzen set to return to AU for a fifth season

How the outside hitter made a lasting mark on American University volleyball

Senior outside hitter Zeynep Uzen has already made a lasting impact on American University’s  volleyball team. Since winning the Patriot League Championship in her freshman season, she has continued to dominate on the court, accomplishing many impressive feats in her four years with the Eagles. 

Despite obstacles such as the coronavirus pandemic, she has remained resilient and focused on her goal of winning the Patriot League title for a second time.

Born and raised in Istanbul, Uzen is no stranger to overcoming adversity. When the opportunity came to play at the college level, she flew across the globe to AU to embark on a new journey, embracing the struggles that came with leaving her family and friends at home. 

The adjustment was a challenge, and Uzen recalled feeling out of place often. To make her transition even more difficult, as soon as she arrived in D.C., it was time for fall sports to begin.

Uzen found herself navigating life in a new country, life in college and life as a Division I athlete all at once.

“It’s like having two different lives,” she said, “but being in two completely different environments has made me more mature.” 

Her maturity has carried her far during her volleyball career, helping her make adjustments to her game, facilitate big plays, and take on a leadership position for her team. 

In her freshman season, she was named the Patriot League Rookie of the Week four times before ultimately being crowned the Patriot League Rookie of the Year and named a member of the All-Patriot League First Team.

She finished the season with 276 kills, averaging 2.76 per set and recording six double-double performances. 

Her stellar freshman season was only the beginning of what was to come. In spite of a shortened season during her sophomore year due to the pandemic, Uzen was able to continue her success, averaging 2.19 kills per set and being named to the Patriot League Honor Roll. 

She came back even stronger during her junior season, being named to the Patriot League First Team, Patriot League All-Tournament Team and the All-Patriot League Team. Uzen led her team with 525 total kills, averaging 4.10 per set during the season.

These standout statistics left her ranked nationally for NCAA Division I play, placing her seventh overall for kills and 10th for total points.  

This past season, Uzen reached 1,000 kills in her career, an accomplishment only 14 other Eagles have reached in program history.

When asked about her time at AU, Uzen recalls how amazing it felt to see her hard work pay off, crediting her success to the unwavering support from her teammates and coaches.  

“In every practice we push ourselves to play on a better level than previous. We are competing with each other to play better volleyball,” Uzen said.

Despite her many achievements, Uzen said she is still her harshest critic, and she felt like something is missing. 

“The job is not done,” she said, referring to her career at AU. “I want to feel that emotion and reach that level of success again that comes with winning the title.”

Uzen is set to return for a fifth season this fall with her sights set on helping bring the Eagles their 17th Patriot League Championship win since the team joined the league in 2001. 

When asked about her other long-term goals, she expressed interest in playing beyond the collegiate level, hopefully in Europe for a professional women’s team.

Whatever is next for Uzen, we can expect to see her continue to flourish as both a volleyball player and a young woman.

“Volleyball is not a sport you can win with only one player. If I reach success, it is all because of my team’s effort and support.” Uzen said.

This article was edited by Penelope Jennings, Delaney Hoke and Nina Heller. Copy editing done by Isabelle Kravis, Natasha LaChac and Sophie Myers.

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