Sept. 20, 2013
Editor's note: This story appears in the summer issue of The Horn, CSU Athletics' magazine. All former student-athletes and Ram Club members receive The Horn on a quarterly basis. For more information, contact the Ram Club Office, (970) 491-4666.
It happened nearly 12 years ago but Soraya Santos remembers it like it was yesterday. The opponent on the other side of the net. The 3,804 screaming fans at Moby Arena. It was all on the line.
“We were losing the fifth set, 13-9, and I remember this so clearly because the players from CU were so sure they were going to win the match that they had smiles on their faces,” Santos recalls.
Potentially just two points away from the end of her collegiate career, Santos calmly walked back to the service line. Her teammate, Becky Sarauer, had just recorded a big block to bring the Rams to within three, 13-10, but they still trailed rival CU in the deciding set of the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Santos had one of the best jump serves in CSU history, but in a situation like that, many would say it’s too risky.
Santos took the risk, though.
“I went to do my jump serve and my legs were shaking,” she said. “The fans were screaming my name and anxiety took over my entire body. I remember holding the volleyball and the only thought on my mind was, ‘Don’t miss the serve, don’t miss the serve.’”
Instead, she tallied her fourth ace of the night, bringing the score to 13-11 and forcing a CU timeout. The Rams took four of the next five points, and after a CU attack error, pandemonium erupted inside Moby Arena, as the Rams came from behind to defeat the Buffaloes, 16-14, and advance to their third straight Sweet 16.
That year, Santos was named an AVCA All-American. Her career .350 hitting percentage still ranks third in CSU history and her eight aces vs. Air Force in the 2001 MW Championships remain a school record.
Santos spent two seasons in the Green & Gold after transferring from the College of Southern Idaho.
“Tom (Hilbert) was one of two coaches to come see me in my hometown, and that meant a lot,” said Santos, who hails from Vitoria, Brazil. “I have so many great memories from CSU. Tom, Karrie (Larson) and Andy (Klussmann) taught me everything.”
While her collegiate career ended shortly after the historic victory against CU, Santos still has not given up the game she loves. This fall she will begin her 12th season of professional volleyball in Europe, the longest-tenured professional in
program history. Her success has allowed her to travel the world and play for teams in Portugal, Italy, France and Spain.
“This season I will go back to Spain” said Santos, who has played eight of her 11 professional seasons in that country. “That is where I find myself happy to play volleyball. I think I will play two more years and then retire so I can have my family.”