Volleyball is off to one of its best starts in program history. After beginning the season ranked #21 in the nation, the team fired off seven straight wins before finally falling to Stevens Institute of Technology this past Saturday. Volleyball’s 7-0 start marked the first time the Garnet had won more than four straight games to open a season under 17th-year head coach Harleigh Chwastyk. Crucial to the team’s success is their starting libero, or defensive specialist, Sarah Girard ՚19. Hailing from Woodbine, Maryland, Girard has earned All-Centennial Conference First Team honors in each of her three years at Swarthmore. This year, Girard has continued her stellar defensive play, earning Most Valuable Player honors at the Moravian Premiere Tournament. In addition, during the team’s Sept. 1 match against Wesley, Girard broke the program’s all-time record for digs, and she currently leads the team with 125 on the season. Girard and the rest of the Garnet return to action Sept. 15, when they face Dickinson in Carlisle, PA to open Centennial Conference play, and again on Sept. 18 when they host Ursinus in their home opener at Tarble Pavilion.
Max Katz-Balmes: What is your major, and what led you to pursue that area of study?
Sarah Girard: I am double majoring in math and political science. I care deeply for social justice issues, which is why I decided to pursue a major in political science, and math has always been a subject I found interesting.
M.K.B.: Why and how did you decide to attend Swarthmore?
S.G.: Honestly, I had never heard of Swarthmore until my senior year of high school. At that point, I had pretty much given up on the idea of playing volleyball in college, so I was hesitant to visit Swat while I was being recruited. Once I got here, though, I fell in love with the community that this little school has built over the years. The people here are truly unique, and I’m so thankful that I’ve gotten to play volleyball alongside some of the most incredible women.
M.K.B.: How did you begin playing volleyball?
S.G.: My parents actually met playing volleyball! They tried to get me and my sister into the sport for years, but it wasn’t until 7th grade that I actually decided to give it a try.
M.K.B.: What is your favorite volleyball memory at Swarthmore?
S.G.: I mean winning the regional finals was absolutely incredible, but there have also been so many weird and quirky moments over the years that have made my experience with this program unforgettable. My team is amazing. Whether we’re singing Disney songs in the shower or doing broccoli dances in the Hopkins gym, we’re always having fun and that’s probably what I’ll remember most about my time here.
M.K.B.: What was it like to be a part of the first Swarthmore volleyball team to make the NCAA Tournament?
S.G.: It was like a dream. We were so amazed that we even made it into the tournament to begin with, so we just played our hardest and kept beating teams that were ranked higher than us. I don’t think it really even hit us how amazing our victories were until way after the fact.
M.K.B.: Describe the emotions you experienced during your unexpected run to the NCAA quarterfinals.
S.G.: There were a lot of nerves on our team before the match. We were playing in a huge facility unlike anything we’d experienced before. The other teams were all tall, beautiful and blonde, and we were ranked last out of the eight teams there. Yet, we were also happy just to be there. It was the most amazing opportunity, so we were excited to step onto the court and just play some high-level volleyball against an incredible opponent.
M.K.B.: How does it feel to be Swarthmore’s all-time leader in digs?
S.G.: My teammates were instrumental in my success because they have always pushed me in practice and helped to keep me motivated when I started to lose focus during the school year. A dig record is an individual accomplishment, but volleyball is a team sport and I couldn’t have done it without my best friends picking me up along the way.
M.K.B.: Do you have post-graduation plans?
S.G.: Eventually I want to go to law school, but I want to take a few years off to work. I’m applying for a few things, but nothing is set is stone right now.
M.K.B.: What is one thing that you would change about Swarthmore?
S.G.: There has been a surplus of activism on campus this past semester, and students are calling for change. I love the Swarthmore community, but it can only function as a community when mutual respect exists between the administration and the students. I feel like last year, there was far too much resistance on the part of the administration in response to students asking for reform. If I could change one thing about Swarthmore, it would be this lack of responsiveness.