Sept. 10, 2010
The 2010 Clemson volleyball team opened the season with a new look during the final weekend in August. Head Coach Jolene Hoover’s team features five freshmen, eight sophomores, and only one junior and one senior.
However, describing Cansu Ozdemir (pronounced JAHN-soo OHZ-duh-meer) as “only one senior” is a drastic understatement of her impact on the squad.
“We were going through preseason this year and we were moving players around with a couple of injuries,” recalled Hoover. “I talked to Cansu about moving, maybe over to the libero spot, a position she had never played. She said to me, `Mo (Simmons) has to be on the court’.”
The talk was for Simmons to move to the right side, Ozdemir’s spot almost all of the 2009 season.
“I told her, `You do, too,’ and that’s when we talked about her moving to libero,” continued Hoover. “`Anything the team needs’ was the first thing out of her mouth.”
A native of Istanbul, Turkey, Ozdemir is studying to be a genetic counselor. Universities in the United States grant the opportunity to play volleyball and earn a degree, two passions of Ozdemir that are mutually exclusive in Europe. Athletes face the decision of turning pro or attending a university.
Ozdemir was not prepared to give up on either dream and decided to come to Clemson after her former teammate in Turkey, Didem Ege, convinced her to attend Clemson. Ege ended her career in 2009 as the ACC’s all-time leader in digs, which is apparently something Ozdemir paid attention to. Ege was also named ACC Defensive Player-of-the-Year in 2009.
Through three matches, Ozdemir had a 4.88 digs-per-set average, equaling Ege’s career ACC record. Ozdemir, who was named to the Carolina Challenge All-Tournament team by leading Clemson to a 3-0 record last weekend, even joked after that she would have to call Ege to let her know how she was doing in her former teammate’s spot.
Ozdemir has played during one of the most prolific eras of Clemson volleyball. Since she enrolled, the Tigers are 78-24 (.765), have gone to three NCAA Tournaments, and won the 2007 ACC title with a 21-1 league mark.
Ozdemir missed almost all of her freshman season with knee and ankle injuries, but she played in 96 sets in her sophomore season. As a junior, she played in 115 sets, starting 23 matches, and played a solid brand on the hardcourt.
“First, I started with two tough injuries,” she admitted. “Even though I was sitting on the bench, it was a good experience. It’s always different watching people on the court and seeing how you should act in certain situations.”
“I think that coming from another country and a different style of play, it took her a while to adjust,” said Hoover. “She has developed into a solid, consistent, and stable player. We saw that last year when we went back and forth with her and another player on the right side, but the team seemed to have better chemistry with her out on the court and we were better as a team.”
“Better as a team” is the key to Ozdemir’s game. She is the type of selfless individual that will give up her own spot to make sure that the best six are on the floor at all times, even when she has to be reminded that she is in the starting group.
“I always do whatever the team needs,” Ozdemir stated. “I was never the best hitter or a five-star girl. I do whatever the team needs.”
She has displayed that mentality throughout her life. After leaving home at the age of 14 to attend a boarding school nearly two hours from her home, she learned to live independently, even though her parents visited weekly. But coming to a new country is something totally different from what Ege did, Ozdemir chose, and sophomore Serenat Yaz, also an Istanbul native, is also learning to do.
“I haven’t been home in more than a year,” Ozdemir said. “My parents will come for graduation, but I don’t think they’ll get a chance to see me play, except when the team traveled to Turkey last summer. I want to get my masters in genetic counseling and then find a job in the States. That’s my plan, and `Plan B’ is to go back home.”
With such a strong head on her shoulders and a desire to work every day for others, both on the court and in her chosen field of expertise, Ozdemir is showing the type of character that embodies Clemson’s student-athletes.
This fall, she has the opportunity to reach an NCAA Tournament for all four years of her career, a goal that the team shares. If the Tigers do reach that goal, you better believe that Ozdemir is doing whatever the team needs to accomplish it.
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