Hitter finds passion in volleyball, ‘wouldn’t have it any other way’

2015 August 29 - FIU's Tia Clay (18). FIU defeated Alabama A&M, 3-0, at US Century Bank Arena, Miami, Florida. (Photo by: Alex J. Hernandez / photobokeh.com) This image is copyright by PhotoBokeh.com and may not be reproduced or retransmitted without express written consent of PhotoBokeh.com. ©2015 PhotoBokeh.com - All Rights Reserved

Alexa Roth // Staff Writer

Born in Sacramento, California, volleyball player Tia Clay grew up with the mindset of becoming a gymnast.

Her father made sure she stayed active and involved in athletics, but after suffering too many injuries practicing gymnastics, her father suggested she try volleyball. Soon after, Clay found that she loved the sport and it became her passion.

Clay, now a junior, is FIU’s volleyball outside and right-side hitter. She has been playing for 10 years now, but says “College volleyball is a whole different era. Transitioning from playing club volleyball … was an awesome experience. I have learned a lot about myself, I now can take the lessons I learned out on the court into the real world. I have such a great tolerance for things now.”

With away games every week, practices every day, and schoolwork on the side, this student athlete has her hands full; however, she says time management happens to be one of her best qualities.

“We are student athletes but we are students first,” Clay said. “We have to do the best for our team on the court but the best for ourselves in the classroom.”

As a biology major on the pre-med track, Clay realizes how important it is to divide her time equally and make sure she is succeeding both on and off the court.

While balancing school work and volleyball may get tough, Clay says her favorite thing about the sport is her teammates.

“They are what makes it worthwhile, and sometimes we get tired and down on ourselves, but it’s great to have a whole team backing you up and routing for you,” Clay said. “They are the best support system.”

Clay is also heavily involved in extracurricular activities. She is currently president of the Student Athlete Leadership Council, a member of the fellowship of Christian Athletes group, a liaison for the athletic department for the Student Government Association and an ambassador for the Women Who Lead conference.

“She’s a great leader on and off the court,” said sophomore middle blocker Chelsea Hudson. “She’s very supportive, and is [making it] easy to learn by example.”

Clay explains that as a team, the support they give each other is what keeps them going.

“Not everyone can play in every game, so even [when I am] sitting on the sidelines, I love cheering my team on,” she said. “Being there for them is super gratifying.”

Last season in the first round of the UTSA conference finals, Clay came close to a perfect game, almost breaking a record, with only five errors in the first two or three games. This season, she hopes that as a team, they will reach the top four in their conference.

This student athlete is confident in her team’s abilities and grateful for the chance to play.

“I couldn’t imagine not being a student athlete, I love the family atmosphere and all the support we get from the staff and the coaches,” Clay said. “I am really blessed to have been given the opportunity to play volleyball at the D1 level. I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

Photo courtesy of FIU Sports

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