The cold weather didn’t discourage the Puerto Rico native from signing with the Gophers. “Still, I knew this was the place I had to be. I just love it,” says the 6-1 Santana, who is the U of M volleyball team’s only player of color. “Everything is what I wanted. I just wanted to be here.”
Nonetheless, the stark differences between her native home and her collegiate home are clear, says Santana, the freshman outside hitter. “Puerto Rico is completely different. The first thing is the food. The weather. The music. Everything. Even the volleyball is different.”
Being around her teammates has helped, continues Santana. “Even though I am so far from home, sometimes I feel like I’m home because [her teammates] are true friends. I’ve known them for about two months, but you just trust them. They help me out with my English, and we just laugh altogether. I’m learning and that’s good.”
Although she might be uncomfortable with her English, and especially uncomfortable speaking to a reporter, Santana has let her volleyball do most of the talking. The 6-1 freshman has a wicked power serve — Santana posted five of her career-high seven aces in the first set of an early season match against Miami of Ohio.
“I have been practicing my serve a lot,” she humbly points out. “I spend a lot of time to make it better. I try to do the best I can.”
However, Santana is ranked in both conference and national Top Ten in aces per set, helping get the U of M into the nation’s top 25 squads in this category, ranking fourth in the nation in aces per set (0.58).
“I am going to learn a lot here.”
Santana also admits that despite being a member of Puerto Rico’s National Team since 2011 and captain of the Youth National Team, she didn’t know that she would be a starter in her first collegiate season. “It was not for sure that I was going to start. I knew that I needed to work for it. If I have the opportunity to play, that’s awesome. If [I] don’t, then you keep working for it and work harder.”
She plans to study psychology or biology at Minnesota “because I want to become a surgeon.” Santana says she has met other international students since school began, “people from Spain, but no one from Puerto Rico yet. It’s good to find someone that speaks Spanish.”
Even though she is currently a front-row starter for the Gophers and her serve has been very effective, Santana is quick to point out that she considers herself far from an accomplished player and glad for the opportunity to strengthen her skills in Minnesota: “I am going to learn a lot here.”
Santana was named on Monday the Big Ten Freshman of the Week, her first and the school’s first since 2010. She averaged nearly three kills and 2.3 digs per set in two Gopher wins last week, including a career-high 14 kills against Michigan. She leads Minnesota with 32 aces.
Long overdue recognition
Now the head football coach at Park Center High School, Rickey Foggie was the Gophers’ quarterback from 1984-87 and three-time team MVP. He’s also the school’s career rushing yards leader, first in career touchdowns, fourth all-time in total offense, third in season rushing yards as a QB, and claims four of the top 23 100-yard rushing games in U of M history.
Yet it wasn’t until this season’s September 8 home opener that Foggie was finally formally recognized for his Gopher career. “I got a call last week from the athletic department. They said they want to honor a Gopher great and wanted to know if I would be honored. I’m very proud to be able to come back and receive this award,” says Foggie.
First-base Coach Jerry White, the only Black coach with the Minnesota Twins, along with two other longtime coaches had a combined 60 years experience before they were fired last week. Was it their fault that the team lost over 90 games the last two seasons? Was it also their fault that the team didn’t have starting pitchers who can go at least five innings or hitters who can’t bat in runners in scoring positions? Was it also their fault that the Twins farm system can’t produce anyone of major-league caliber?
I’m just asking.
Did you know…?
Foggie and one other Gopher quarterback did something in school history that hasn’t been duplicated since. Name the historical feat as well as the other quarterback. (Answer in next week’s “View.”)
Answer to last week’s question: Who led the Twins in stolen bases and doubles and had the team’s longest hit streak this season? Ben Revere led Minnesota in stolen bases, and his career-high 21-game hitting streak was a team high and longest since Torii Hunter in 2007. Fellow outfielder Denard Span was the Twins’ doubles leader in 2012.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.