Athlete Spotlight: Lee volleyball's Suriana Lee
Despite a frenzy of college essays, Suriana Lee's senior year already resembles the consistent success of years past. She is no stranger to Western Massachusetts championship games as the Wildcats have produced some of Berkshire County's best Tennis and Volleyball teams over the past five years. While the 2019-20 school year began roughly a month ago, Lee has made headlines for achieving her 1,000th career assist on the Volleyball court as the Wildcats sit atop the Berkshire County standings with a 9-1 record. Despite her busy schedule, Lee stopped by The Berkshire Eagle office to discuss her playing career, college plans, favorite foods and Baby Driver.
BERKSHIRE EAGLE: We're going to start with the "C" word that I am sure you've been thinking about a lot lately. What are your plans for college?
SURIANA LEE: My first choice right now is Georgia Tech. I want to go to school for Aerospace Engineering, but I have a lot of options and a lot of applications that still need to be done. I am hoping to go somewhere bigger.
EAGLE: When you go to college, you are going to be asked one pretty annoying question in every class you step into. I am going to ask you it first, tell me something nobody knows about you.
LEE: I love to travel and try new things. I have been all over the world and my parents raised me to be open-minded and willing to try new things. That is what I am about. Especially food. I love all different kinds of food. I have a scratch-off map where I can mark off where I haven been.
EAGLE: Where is somewhere you haven't been that you are trying to go to?
LEE: I've never been to Africa or Australia and those are two places I really need to hit at some point.
EAGLE: What have been your favorite states you've been to?
LEE: I would say Texas. That is where my brother lives and I've been there a few times. It is so diverse and so much different than here and the weather is definitely better.
EAGLE: What is your favorite food when traveling?
LEE: Whenever we go to Texas we always hit this one barbecue joint. Just the way they smoke their meats and everything is just so good.
EAGLE: Favorite food in general?
LEE: Definitely Asian cuisine because I grew up on that.
EAGLE: I guess we should touch on sports a little bit. tennis in the spring and volleyball in the fall. I don't want you to pick your favorite, but if you had a group of people to play volleyball with or three people you can go play tennis with, which one are you choosing?
LEE: Competitively, I would pick volleyball. Just because it is really rewarding and so much of a team sport. I love being around people, being social and I like picking each other up. I think that is a huge part of volleyball. Just always staying positive. [A few nights ago against Lenox when we won in the fifth set 16-14] we were missing a few people so we had to put people in spots they had never played before. It was huge to just be positive and keep that intense energy and that is what pulled us to the win.
EAGLE: How tough is it to hold in all that energy while playing tennis, especially while playing in something like the state tournament?
LEE: It is really hard because you want to cheer, be hyped and want your teammates cheering you on. At the same time, it is a really respectful sport and you need to respect your opponent. Especially one-on-one, it is easy to get down on yourself and it is hard to keep the energy up so it is really a huge mental thing to just stay in the game.
EAGLE: After having John Warner as a coach for so many years, what are your thoughts on having his daughter Julie Warner coaching Lee volleyball this year?
LEE: A lot of it is positivity and working as a team. In previous years it has always been focused on getting yourself to be the best that you can be. This year, it is more about no matter what, you sacrifice what you need to for the team. Everything is working together and keeping that chemistry that won us games in the past and it is going to win us games now when we don't have as strong of an offense as last year or Anna Wang on defense. It is hard that we don't have that intense individual motivation, but it is also great to have this teamwork.
EAGLE: What are some of the things you have had to do to step out of your comfort zone this year?
LEE: Last year I just set the entire game. This year I set for roughly half the game and for half the game I hit. It is a little bit of a change and not too much out of my comfort zone, but it is still something where I want to be in control all the time. When you're a setter you're always in control as the captain on the floor. It is hard to step back from that intense leadership role and just be an outside hitter, but it has been fun so far. It is really rewarding to get kills and celebrate.
EAGLE: Favorite classes?
LEE: I only have like three or four classes this year, but physics and calculus are both really fun. It is hard to pick, but I am just a math and science person naturally.
EAGLE: Was it tough to capture the time management skills when you first arrived as a freshman trying to play sports at a varsity level while wanting to take intense classes?
LEE: Absolutely, especially junior year when you're trying to cram all these classes in it is really hard to work in your social life, work, homework and sports. You kind of get used to it as the years go on. Especially now as a senior, I don't have as much to balance, so its pretty easy.
EAGLE: Hulu or Netflix?
LEE: Netflix. American Horror Story is my go-to show right now. I like a lot of classic movies like The Goonies or The Breakfast Club. One recent movie I really love is Baby Driver. It is like my favorite movie of all time right now.
EAGLE: What drew you to volleyball?
LEE: I guess I always have been interested in it ever since we played it for fun back in elementary school. It has always been fun to me and the fact that anyone can play it and it doesn't matter who you are. There are a bunch of different positions for different reasons and you don't have to have a particular strength, you can just play and it is something you can learn. In tennis, it is one thing you have to be good at, but for volleyball you can excel at a lot of different things at one time. It is really fun to have a whole team you can rely on.
EAGLE: What is your favorite sport you don't play?
LEE: I wish I played badminton. I think it is fun. The same is true for football. I love watching it and sometimes I wish I played just for fun.
EAGLE: What are your expectations for yourself on the court this year? How do you want to be remembered at Lee High School?
LEE: Hitting 1,000 assists was huge. That has been my biggest goal since sophomore year. Going past that now, just making it the Western Mass. finals would be huge because we've done it every other year before this. We've lost to Frontier every time, but this year I really really hope we have a chance. For tennis, I would really love to win states this year because even though we lost three or four seniors, we still have a strong team. A lot of the younger people are willing to step up and have been working hard to get better.
EAGLE: Is it a little annoying when you see the name Frontier at this point?
LEE: Definitely. Any sport, anywhere and always.
EAGLE: How important have sports been to your high school career?
LEE: Huge. They have helped me make so many new friends and even if it isn't in high school. Just playing the sports in general has made me a lot more social and a lot more confident as a person because I feel like these are things I am good at, which is nice.
EAGLE: You've worked with a lot of experienced coaches including John Warner and Norma Comalli, what is one thing you've learned from them that really sticks with you whenever you're feeling down or in need of a little motivation?
LEE: Work your hardest no matter what. Don't let the crowd, whether it is your friends or school, bother you. That is a huge thing I have learned. Especially in sports, you don't want anything to mess up your head and in school you don't want other people to influence what you're doing.
This interview was conducted, edited and condensed by Jake Mendel. Mendel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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