Despite being named the 2002 Atlantic Sun Conference Player of the Year after finishing second in kills and third in service aces in the league Santealla Sante knew her days at the Central Florida were coming to an end.
"I just wasn't having fun anymore," said Santealla Sante. "A lot of things were happening with the coaching staff there so I just decided it was to move on before it became a bigger distraction. I think its worked out,"
Chances are the folks at the University of Miami would agree.
Santealla Sante, a senior outside hitter for the Hurricanes and former co-captain of the Puerto Rican Youth Nationals, has provided Miami with a consistent offensive spark this season, and is one of the reason the Canes are in position to clinch a third-seed in the Big East Championships heading into their regular season finale against Virginia Tech on Saturday.
The 5-10 Puerto Rican, born in Condado, has brought an offensive punch to the Hurricanes that has been received with open arms- especially with the injury-plagued season experienced by 2003 preseason Big East Player of the Year Valeria Tipiana.
"It was really hard for me at the beginning because you never know how you're going to be received or fit in with the rest of the team," says Santealla Sante, who leads the Hurricanes in points (470) and kills (409), and is sixth in the Big East with 4.01 kills per game. "But I'm in a much more relaxed atmosphere and having fun again."
Santealla Sante, coming off 13-kill performance in a loss to Notre Dame, is has little trouble developing into one of the top hitting-service specialist in the Big East after years of international experience in Puerto Rico and a her three years at Central Florida. After helping Puerto Rican squad to a bronze medal in the 1999 Junior Olympics she followed it up by being named an All-Freshmen Selection in Atlantic Coast Conference Championships MVP in 2001 and 2000 while at Central Florida.
"I think playing the amount of volleyball I've had up to this point has really helped me develop my game," Santealla Sante said.
The Hurricanes (21-8, 8-3), holding a one-game lead over Virginia Tech (13-13, 7-4) for third-place in the conference, would secure the third-seed in the league's postseason tournament with a victory and avoid having to sweat out any form of a tiebreaker – for seeding purposes- as a result of a loss.
But losing to the Hokies doesn't sound like an option with Santealla Sante.
"The way we've been practicing this week it's hard to imagine us losing," said Santealla Sante, who leads the Hurricanes in points (470) and kills (409). "I haven't really concerned myself with the tiebreaker and getting the lower seed because I feel good about our chances to win the match."
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