Newcomer assists volleyball team in victories

Florence is over 1,730 miles away from the island of Puerto Rico, but UNA is currently where junior setter Andrea De Leon’s volleyball journey has taken her.

In her first season at UNA, following two seasons at Georgia State, De Leon led the Gulf South Conference in total assists (1,143) and assists per game (10.39) in the regular season helping the Lions to an (19-11, 14-6) regular season record.

Head coach Stephanie Radecki praised De Leon for quarterbacking the offense and for her defensive play.

“Andrea has a lot of passion for the game. She plays with a lot of intensity and has done a solid job distributing the ball this fall,” she said. “Andrea has the ability to not only run the offense but to be an offensive threat and a defensive strength. That is important to have in a setter.”

De Leon credits team chemistry and teamwork as reasons for her success.

“We are all on the same page,” she said. “I’ve been successful because the defensive players have been doing a great job passing and defending the ball. That allows me to set a great ball and the hitter can go and take advantage of that. It’s teamwork.”

De Leon hails from San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico. In addition to playing for her school, she was also a member of a touring Puerto Rican team that won the JVA World Championship and the 16 Open Level.

“It was a team designed to give volleyball players the exposure they needed to scout all over the country,” said De Leon. “It was great. We traveled all over the United States and we became a family. My coaches were great to me and always supported me on everything. All my teammates got scholarships to NCAA-supported schools. We still see each other when we go back home and it’s great.”

De Leon was also a member of the 2011 Puerto Rico junior national championship team.

Radecki said a team of players from diverse backgrounds and cultures like De Leon and many of her teammates is good for the team.

“Our volleyball program has always celebrated the diversity we have had,” she said. “We have players from all areas of the country and all different backgrounds. We not only welcome those differences but we feel it’s what makes us stronger.”

Play volleyball is not the only thing De Leon enjoys, she said.

“When I’m home I love going to the beach or road trips around the island with my friends or being with my family,” she said. “Here, I like to sleep a lot, watch movies or cook.”

There are a lot of things that De Leon misses about San Juan, specifically her family and their reunions and the beach, but she also enjoys the lifestyle in the much smaller city of Florence.

“[My family has] 12 aunties and uncles and each last Sunday of every month we get together on the house of a different uncle or auntie and we have a family reunion,” she said. “One of my favorite things is when my mom calls me on FaceTime when they are all together and they pass the phone to every single person present and they tell me how much they miss me and that they can’t wait to see me. I miss them a lot.”

De Leon is a biology and pre-med major and after she graduates from UNA she wants to make a living helping youth.

“I want to go to med school,” she said. “I still don’t know what kind of doctor I want to be, but I know I want to work with children.”