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Tuesday, May 21, 2024
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rebuilding au volleyball

AU volleyball graduates pass torch

Zeynep Uzen and Carlie Fikse reflect on their legacy

From the Newsstands: This story appeared in The Eagle's April 2024 print edition. You can find the digital version here

The graduation of seven players from an 18-member volleyball roster signals a substantial change, as just under half of the team prepares to move on. When that loss includes the best player and outside hitter in the conference in graduate student Zeynep Uzen and a second-team all-conference middle blocker in graduate student Carlie Fikse, a coach might worry about the team’s future. 

American University volleyball coach Ahen Kim is walking confidently into his second season at AU, backed by six returning freshmen whose performance propelled the Eagles to a six-game win streak late in the regular season and an appearance in the Patriot League championship game against Colgate. 

In Uzen’s fifth season, she ranked first in the Patriot League with kills, notching 477 on the season, beating out second-place Lehigh’s Megan Schulte by 113 kills. This performance led her to win the Patriot League Player of the Year award. 

Uzen plans to continue playing volleyball professionally, either in the U.S. in the newly founded Pro Volleyball Federation, elsewhere in the States or in Europe. “I’d love to stay here, though. I already know the culture of American volleyball,” she said. 

As Uzen parts ways with her decorated college career, she passes the torch to freshman outside hitter Sofia Osterdahl.

Osterdahl did not see the court much in her first season with the team but is excited to make a larger contribution. She emphasized the value of getting playing time this season, early in the year and for the final two sets of the championship match. “I thrive in ‘do-or-die’ situations, it’s good to be on the court,” Osterdahl said.

Osterdahl has already made an impact as a freshman, contributing 4 kills in her 2 sets against Colgate. 

Kim had high praise for Osterdahl. “If there’s anyone who hits harder than Zeynep [Uzen], it’s Sofia. She’s got a mature disposition about her, and she’ll be one of our go-to hitters this spring,” he said. “Hitting the ball hard is a skill that’s hard to teach, so having her with that skill on our team is invaluable.”

Osterdahl thanked Uzen for her guidance throughout the season, both spoken and shown. “I’m big on watching and learning, so watching Zeynep [Uzen] play is helping me in a big way,” she said.

She told the fans to expect “someone who will keep working on what they built, keeping up their energy and hustle while doing it” from her next season. 

For the outside hitters coming up behind her, Uzen had one message: “You’re going to do great. If I can do it, you can do it too.”

The group of returning outside hitters consists of Osterdahl, rising sophomores Holly Hopkins, Carly Sciborski and Maiden McLoughlin, as well as rising junior Adelina Berisha.

“When I came in, I felt coach Barry [Goldberg]’s legacy. I hope the team continues to carry that forward,” Uzen said. “I was so happy to be a part of it during my time, I can’t imagine myself playing for a different program.”

This article was edited by Penelope Jennings, Delaney Hoke and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing done by Luna Jinks, Isabelle Kravis, Liah Argiropoulos and Ariana Kavoossi.

Section 202 host Gabrielle and friends go over some sports that aren’t in the sports media spotlight often, and review some sports based on their difficulty to play. 

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