Athlete of the Week: Dani Pena ’24

Swarthmore Athletics

Dani Pena ’24, a junior from Southlake, TX, is an offensive threat, leading Swarthmore volleyball to victory this season. She clocked her 1,000th career assist on Tuesday, Oct. 11, against Washington College, a major career milestone. She also currently leads the conference in assists-per-set at 8.81. Her significant offensive contributions have led the Garnet to second place in the conference, a Region V ranking, and a postseason berth in the Centennial Conference tournament. 

Sophia Vesely: How did it feel to record your 1,000th career assist?

Dani Pena: It was pretty fun to get that 1,000th assist, I must say. Assists are one of the few things in volleyball that rely on one of your teammates before the touch and after it. So behind that 1,000th assist, there were 1,000 digs and 1,000 kills too. It’s a pretty big milestone for the program, and I think it speaks to the level the team is at right now.

SV: With a current second place standing in the Centennial Conference, can you speak to the team’s incredible success thus far?

DP: We’ve been fortunate enough to have almost our entire team from last year come back, so with that solid foundation set and some great new additions from the first years, we’ve been able to really focus on playing better volleyball and consistently elevating our level of play. There’s a fun and competitive energy when we play, and I think we do an excellent job of channeling it in competition.

SV: What are some of the team’s goals for the rest of the season?

DP: The biggest and most important goal for us this season is winning the Centennial Conference. It’s an extremely attainable goal for us this season, and we all know it. It’s also the culmination of all of our team and individual goals. If we focus on the game in front of us and play like we know how to play, I think we’ll be good.

SV: What has been a highlight of the season for you?

DP: Over fall break, we went to play the #8, #9, and #10 teams in the nation at NYU, and we played extremely well. It was so much fun to see that level of competition and stick with them. Although we didn’t win any of the games, we walked away feeling pretty good.

SV: Do you have any pre- or post-game rituals?

DP: I don’t have any game rituals, but I have fallen into the habit of not taking off any of my jewelry until about two minutes before the game starts. In the beginning, it was just forgetfulness, but since our [team] doing well seemed to correspond with my jewelry removal habits, I’ve been sticking with it. It drives my coach crazy, but hey, whatever it takes.

SV: Why did you choose Swarthmore?

DP: I actually had no desire to even look into Swat until my mom dragged me to visit the campus my senior year. Upon hanging out for a bit and learning about the college, I ultimately chose Swat for its small class sizes, professors, academic structure, and its proximity to a major city. Volleyball was a plus too.

SV: What is your major, and why?

DP: I’m an economics and religion double major. I always joke that econ is for the job, and religion is because I go to a liberal arts school. Although, in reality, I came in wanting to be an econ major and later added on religion after taking a first-year seminar and a few classes last year. I’m always trying to persuade my teammates to take a religion class … Who knows, they may like it!

SV: Favorite Dining Center bar?

DP: Dessert bar, hands down. I’m a big believer in a little something sweet after eating, and I find that the desserts almost never disappoint.

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