“Playing in the NCAA Final Four has been the best experience of my sporting life”

raquel lazarus (4/1/2000) spends a few days of vacation in Málaga with his family. The daughter of former compositor player Jesús Lázaro is still assimilating the milestone she achieved a few weeks ago, by proclaiming herself NCAA runner-up in American volleyball with Louisville, after a Final Four in which he played in front of 17,000 spectators.

«Playing the Final Four was amazing. There were 17,000 people in the pavilion. I had never played in front of so many people. Qualifying was already amazing for us. I cried a lot when we got the pass. There was a week left until the Final Four in Omaha (Nebraska) and it was all crazy. When we got there it was like we were famous. We all had to go together, passing in front of the fans before the games, we were surrounded by cameras, they did a lot of interviews, things for social networks, photos, videos… It was all a blast», she remembers still excited.

«The first game against Pittsburgh was a great game. It was decided in the last set, that we played amazing. We left them at only 2 points (15-2). I didn’t even believe it. The stands supporting us to the fullest… In the final we had options in the first and third sets, but we lacked a little more attack. For nonsense we could not put more pressure on Texas. Playing this Final Four has been my best sporting experienceeven higher than when I played with the Spanish team,” says the Costa del Sol setter.

Raquel has played for the Louisville Cardinals after four years in Los Angeles. The player from Malaga remembers her arrival at the Kentucky State University. “When I came to Louisville I knew that we could do important things. They were looking for an experienced setter and that’s where my profile fit them. They called me and the first few times I spoke with the trainer, Dani Busboom Kelly, who was a setter in her time, she was very nice to me. There were other options, but from the beginning I was interested in Louisville because I also loved the deal from the beginning with the trainer. When I went for my first official visit, everything was great. I saw it as a family, there was a very good atmosphere between the players and the staff, something that I had not seen in my 4 years in Los Angeles. Then in the summer, when we started training, we saw that there was a very good team and that by working well we could go a long way. We won from the first games with a very good game and we began to get excited that why not think about big goals. We had ups and downs during the season, which is very stressful, with 3 games a week, but in the worst moments we always play as a team,” she says.

Raquel assures that the ease of combining studies and sports practice in the United States is not a myth. «It is true that playing and studying there is easier than in Spain or other countries. There the classes are with fewer students, in the end the teachers know you and know that you are in the team and when and where you play. They don’t give you anything, but they do help you by changing exam dates or things like that, “says the woman from Malaga.

It seems strange that with a mother ex-player of basket and a father who has been in the basketball elite for so many seasons, Raquel has opted for another sport. The woman from Malaga remembers her origins in volleyball. «When she was little she played basketball. Being in Murcia, being a juvenile, we played mixed. The boys were already beginning to hit a lot and one day I said “pass”. I decided to try rhythmic gymnastics and also beach volleyball. The coach I had in beach volleyball, whose name is Carolina Pérez, I loved it. He taught me to love volleyball. Then I signed up for the track. One day, after training, I was left alone to practice power serve, but it didn’t come out. I saw a man there who looked like he could help me and I asked him to tell me how to do it. It was Pascual Saorín, who is now precisely the Spanish women’s national coach. When he saw me, he told the “president” to upgrade me to the children’s class and while training with them, the cadets’ coach saw me and took me for her team. In other words, I started playing with girls 3 and 4 years older than me. It all started there…».

Raquel assures that her father’s professional experience is very important to her on a day-to-day basis. «My father knows very little about volleyball and sometimes he stresses me out a bit (laughs). But it is a great help for me. Whenever I have a problem I call him. He gives me a lot of advice, he watches all my games and we talk about it afterwards. He sometimes questions some of my decisions and that makes me nervous, but both he and my mother and sister are my fundamental support. It is an advantage to have a father who has been professional to be able to talk about all this. Whenever I found myself unmotivated in Los Angeles, he would play Kobe Bryant videos or motivational interviews. The truth is that dad is a help in many things for me, “he admits.

Raquel now focuses her professional career, after completing the university stage. She regrets that volleyball in Spain is not thriving, which will force her to look for a team abroad. “Volleyball is a beautiful sport. But people won’t see it. In Spain there is no money and that is why the good foreign players do not come and the Spanish ones that stand out go to other leagues. And that, together with little media echo… The Spanish team is now a very young team and I think we have a future to go up little by little. I believe that if the Spanish Federation gave a boost to its social networks and did more promotion, the project would grow and from there it would have more visibility.», he says.

At the moment, Raquel Lázaro awaits destiny. There will be news soon.

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