Holding Court: A Q&A with Melanie Ukovich

PURDUESPORTSDOTCOM Melanie Ukovich
PURDUESPORTSDOTCOM
Melanie Ukovich
PURDUESPORTSDOTCOM

Nov. 8, 2006

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Throughout the season, purduesports.com will sit down with each of the Boilermaker volleyball players for a short question and answer session. In this week's Holding Court, senior outside hitter Melanie Ukovich walks us through her trying times rehabbing another knee injury, reminisces about why she started playing volleyball, and previews the emotions she'll feel playing in her last match here at Purdue.

The team is coming off two losses last weekend to Penn State and Ohio State. Are there any lessons you can take away from those two matches that will help you as you prepare for the postseason?
We learned that we need to work hard every game. We need to come out and play hard from the first point of the game and not dillydally along. We need to make smarter decisions and cut down on our unforced errors.

What is the team focusing on in practice this week to prepare for next weekend's matches against Michigan and Michigan State?
We had a team meeting last weekend and we talked about working harder and giving everything we've got in practice. If we do that, it will carry over and help us out a lot this weekend. We need to have some accountability and take ownership of our own actions.

Back in September, the Wolverines and Spartans took you to five games before you were able to win both matches. Do you expect the same type of fight this time around?
Hopefully they will be quicker victories, but you never know what to expect in this conference. It will depend on how we're playing and the same goes for the other team. Anyone can beat anyone else in the Big Ten. If we go five this weekend, then so be it and hopefully we'll prevail.

The knee injury you suffered last season is still giving you some problems. Considering you also went down with a knee injury your freshman year, can you put into words how frustrating your rehab has been?
It's kind of been an emotional roller coaster. I was doing so well and then all of sudden one play happened and I was done. Then I had to rehab and come back, but then I go down again. It's been really tough, but everyone on the team has been so supportive that it's made it a lot easier on me. It's something that's going to happen when you play volleyball.

What do you do and who do you lean on to get you through those difficult times?
I've leaned on my family a lot. I have two older sisters that are amazing and so supportive. My roommate, Sam Mader, has been there for me so many times, too. I can't tell you how much of a help she's been. She's the one who has really gotten me through a lot of it.

As a senior whose college career is almost over, we want to give you a chance to reminisce a little bit. Can you remember what made you want to start playing volleyball?
My sister that's three years older than me played. I think I was in fourth grade when she was going to club tryouts and I told my mom that I wanted to play, too. I just wanted to see if I could do it. I started from about nine years old and thought, `OK, this is fun. Why not?'

Was there anyone, like your sister or a coach, that you looked up to along the way or that had a special impact on you as you were developing your game?
My sisters definitely had an impact. They both played multiple sports and they were really good role models that taught me how to handle both volleyball and softball.

When did you realize that you were good enough to play college volleyball?
I think it was my freshman year of high school. I made the varsity team that year and for club teams, I was always up at the 17s level when I was younger. I thought, `Hey, I can play with these older girls. Maybe I can do this.'

As an elementary education major, do you want to jump right into teaching when you get done with school?
I definitely want to go right into teaching. I'll probably go back home to Illinois to teach there. Eventually, I'd like to go back to get my master's degree. I can't wait to be in the classroom, though. I'm really anxious to teach as much as I can.

As you get ready to move on, what advice would you give your younger teammates based on your experiences here at Purdue?
Work hard everyday, because you never know when it's all going to end. You never know when your last practice or your last game is, so work hard every chance that you have.

How do you think it's going to feel to play your last home match in the Boiler Box Thanksgiving weekend?
I think it's going to be hard. I'm expecting it to be sort of a bittersweet feeling. I won't be glad that it's over necessarily, but I'm at that point in my life where I'm ready to move on to other things and see what else life has in store for me. It also will be really sad, though, because this has been such an amazing experience. The fan support here is great and the last time I get to experience it as a player will be really emotional.