Senior middle hitter Sydney Leimbach, a psychology major with an English minor from Atlanta, is fresh off leading the team to their second ever national championship on Nov. 17, recording seven terminations and adding a team-high six blocks in the championship victory over No. 1 Calvin College (Mich.). The team won in three sets, downing Calvin 25-22, 25-16, 25-12.
This transcript has been edited for length and clarity.
Ryan Callahan, The Emory Wheel: Congratulations on your win at Nationals! What kind of emotions did you feel when you guys closed out that last game?
Sydney Leimbach: It was very surreal. It was super emotional because I really liked sharing the experience with [the] six seniors. I’ve known them forever and I really loved this team this year, so it was really exciting because not only was it a win but it was completely a team win. It was really exciting and I was really proud of how hard we worked all season to get there.
EW: How long have you been playing volleyball?
SL: I started playing in ninth grade, so not as long as some people.
EW: Do you have any pre-game rituals?
SL: [The team] always dances in the locker room, and we have a cheer that we do before every match. There’s generally a lot of dancing on this team.
EW: What song does the team listen to before matches?
SL: We listen to “Win” [by Jay Rock] before every match leading up to the championship and “Mo Bamba” [by Sheck Wes]. Those [songs] were big.
EW: What’s your favorite memory that you have on the volleyball team?
SL: Wow that’s tough. I think winning the national championship is my favorite memory. Aside from that, [the team] went to on a mission trip to Nicaragua last year for a week before we started playing, and that was really cool. I get to see [my teammates] all the time playing volleyball, but seeing everybody in a different setting was really awesome.
EW: What are some of the things that you did in Nicaragua?
SL: We worked with kids at a school and then went to a place where people with disabilities can work and worked with them a bit. We also got to play the Nicaraguan national [volleyball] team, so that was fun. We won once, and we lost twice. We played outside, too. I’ve never played on a concrete court before.
EW: Who is an athlete you look up to?
SL: Serena Williams.
EW: Who’s your favorite volleyball player?
SL: Kerri Walsh.
EW: What are some major life aspirations that you have?
SL: I’m hoping in the future to go into school counseling and maybe end up coaching volleyball as well, because that’s what my high school coach did. She was a counselor at my school and also coached us. I think that would be awesome.
EW: Do you have any plans after college?
SL: I’m thinking about playing abroad. I studied in Ireland so maybe somewhere close by there. I’m also thinking of teaching for a little bit before I go to grad school.