Q&A with Atlanta Vibe setter Marlie Monserez

Members of the Atlanta Vibe celebrate a recent victory.

Credit: Photo courtesy of Atlanta Vibe

Credit: Photo courtesy of Atlanta Vibe

Members of the Atlanta Vibe celebrate a recent victory.

Marlie Monserez, standout setter for the first-place Atlanta Vibe of the Professional Volleyball Federation, is preparing to lead the team in the inaugural Pro Volleyball Federation Championship on May 18th at CHI Health Center in Omaha, Nebraska.

With the Vibe recently clinching a playoff spot in the postseason, the former star, who played at Florida and UCLA, discusses the importance of being yourself, her experience playing professionally and how she is preparing for the upcoming championship run.

(This interview has been edited for clarity.)

Q. Having such a successful volleyball career, thinking back to your roots, what is one piece of advice that has stuck with you?

A. I would say the biggest piece of advice was just to be yourself. Like my sister used to write BM on her hand “Be Maddie.” And then all throughout college, I wrote BM, not all throughout, but like towards the end of college, when I started to realize that was like really cool to be yourself. I wrote BM my hand before games. For Be Marlie!

Q. Do you not do it anymore?

A. I don’t. I normally write something. Right now, I write joy. Just cause - it wasn’t really a piece of advice that somebody gave me, but I found that volleyball is something we do for fun and it’s a really cool thing we get to do, not have to do. So, if I’m not having fun or I don’t have joy, there’s really no point for me to do it. Because I got a great degree, I have other things I can do. So, if volleyball is not enjoyable, or bringing me joy, then I want to do it.

Q. This is the first season of the Pro Volleyball Federation. How has it been treating you and how do you see it growing even more?

A. I think it’s been really awesome. We have like the best staff and it’s just really cool environment. All the (ladies) are really cool, really hardworking and have a common goal to win, but also to have fun. That kind of separates us from the other teams. Honestly, what is super surprising is how many fans are being brought in every single game. It’s the first year and it has to be more than any other female professional sport in their year one. So, I think it’s really cool. I feel like I’m being treated great. And in the cities that they chose to put them in are really cool volleyball towns. It’s really fun.

Q. What is the major difference between college volleyball compared to professional?

A. I would say everyone here is like really great. In college volleyball, you can kind of get away with a few games where you’re playing a team that you’re way better than, and I would say that’s not the case here. Normally, you’d say like “oh speed of the game,” but I think college is really fast. I almost think pro, at this level, it’s blocking and defense. It’s so different. There’s way more things there that just aren’t hitting the ground. There’s way more balls that are being blocked that never were blocked in college. So, I would kind of say the extended rallies and just how good you have to be to finish a rally.

Q. So far, what have you done to make sure you are competing at your highest level?

A. I’d say the biggest thing I’ve done that’s different than what I did in college is just being super active outside of volleyball. Like between Alli (Linnehan) and Grace (Cleveland) and myself and a few other girls on the team, we’re always walking. Like on a game-day walk, or a walk after practice, or it’s just being outside and being active and doing other things that fuel your tank without it being your sport that you’re playing.

Q. How did playing two years of beach volleyball at UCLA strengthen your indoor skills?

A. playing beach was more of an emotional growth for me than volleyball growth. I don’t know how much it helped my game other than like somebody’s blocking or my eyes are a little faster because of it. But I think it mainly brought me so much joy and being on a team with so many cool girls, it was the first time I had been on a team where every single person was genuinely awesome. It was really refreshing and it made me want to keep playing. Where it’s like I loved Florida, I loved my time there and playing indoor, but it was more stress. I think beach volleyball just kind of brought the joy back for me, like the learning mindset and being able to start fresh. Then I went back to indoor and wanted to learn more.

Q. How have you all been able to put those differences aside and come together?

A. Everyone having a different background is really important. Everyone’s a really awesome person on this team. So, if we lose, if there’s a bad game, if whatever, everyone knows your teammates aren’t going to be mad at you. I think the differences, like yes, people come from different backgrounds, but I think every person on our team cares the same level and wants to win, wants to have fun and wants to make the most out of this league. So, I think it also helps that we’re all- everyone’s in different life stages. There’s plenty of girls that are married or in relationships or single. But we’re all kind of in a similar age range. I think we mesh really well because of that. And I think everybody kind of has their group that they can do what they want to do with. We can all hang out together and it’s no problem.

Q. So, you had your little viral moment talking about Tori Stringer when she was still with the Vibe. I know you guys were close and you looked up to her as you guys were both setters. What did you learn from her to really lead this team today?

A. I think being in the same gym as Tori just helped me really learn to compete again. In college there’s a few times where there’s someone so talented in your same position. We were really close off the court, but on the court we were able to compete and still have fun. She showed me how fun competing can be again.

Q. PVF playoffs are coming up soon. How are you guys preparing to remain number one and potentially win the championship?

A. We’re just preparing how we have for every single game. Like every game, the team across the net is going to give us their best. Every game is just as important as the last, doesn’t really matter who you’re playing. I think everyone’s just super locked in and we make sure practices revolved around getting the work we need to do, but also enjoying it. I think enjoying each other’s presence, like there’s not that much time left and we only get one shot.

Q. For away games, what is your favorite thing to do during your downtime?

A. I would say away games, downtime is super walkable time. Grace, Ali and I will go walk somewhere get a few miles in. The best is the day before the game, when you have practice and then after that we’ll either like walk to dinner or like walk around and then go to dinner. So, that’s my favorite because you don’t want to walk too far on game days. Yeah, but we’ll walk like a mile or two on game days too.

Q. Being from Windermere, Florida. How much does it mean to you to still be playing volleyball in the South, especially in Atlanta?

A. It’s so cool. You know, there’s a team in Florida, but Atlanta is really not that far from home and my parents get to come to most every game and my dad actually works in Atlanta for most of the year. So, it worked out really nice. I love being really close to home. I do, I am a homebody, so it’s really fun. We get to go to Orlando and I’m super excited because all my cousins are coming and my best friend’s coming, I’m so excited.

Paige Collins is a student in the Sports Media Certificate program at the University of Georgia’s Carmical Sports Media Institute.