VCU volleyball junior middle blocker Tori Baldwin has been a key contributor every step of the way during the Black and Gold’s journey to capturing the nation’s longest winning streak.
Baldwin was named A-10 Conference Defensive Player of the Week for her performance against Saint Louis University and Dayton University two weeks ago. It is clear Baldwin is a primary reason VCU owns the longest win streak in the country at 23 matches.
During her freshman year, Baldwin was named to the A-10 All-Rookie squad and Female Newcomer of the Year during VCU’s annual Rodney Awards. Baldwin continued to play her heart out on the court as she’s ranked third in the A-10 her sophomore year in blocks per set at 1.31, good for third in school single-season history.
The junior has gained several other titles including Virginia Lottery Student-Athlete of the Week and A-10 Co-Player of the Week.
Describe the transition from playing volleyball in high school to competing at the collegiate level.
I started playing volleyball my freshman year of high school at a very low level, I did not start playing club until my junior year. Club was such a different experience, that was when I really began to learn the sport, my club coach Kim Mansfield really opened the world of volleyball to me. He turned me into a Division I volleyball player. Transitioning from that to college ball was very hard. I worked really hard my freshman year with the help of both Chad Gatzlaff and Tim Doyle. Because of those two and the later addition of assistant coach Pat, I am the player I am today.
How would you describe your game play on the court?
Consistency. I like to consider myself to be the safety outlet, being a middle hitter, you won’t always have a chance at making the flashy play. My job is to constantly be in the air and fake out the opposing middle. I’d also like to consider myself the “calmer,” making sure my team is cool, calm, and collected is a major key when we are on the court.
What are your weakness?
Staying confident when things get tough for me is probably one of my biggest weaknesses that I would like to say I have gotten better at over the three years I have been at VCU. I used to get in my head so much over the smallest things, an attack error or even a blocking error.
What are your strengths?
The overall energy and leadership I bring to the court.
You have been awarded several A-10 titles such as Co-Player of the Week and Defensive Player of the Week. How does it feel to gain that accomplishment not only once but multiple times during this season?
Words can’t describe the feeling to be honest. I mean not only am I getting these accolades, the whole team is. We continue to receive weekly awards all over. It’s absolutely amazing and I hope to get many more.
How does it feel to be a part of the nation’s longest winning streak?
The amount of time, dedication, and love this team has for this sport is the reason we are doing so well. We all are rising as one, everyone is on the same boat paddling at the same time. When one falls, we all pick her up, there is no one left behind. Those emotions and those actions are what we bring to the court every game day and it is why we will win the Atlantic 10 Championship.
Are there certain things in your game play that you are still trying to work on?
I wouldn’t consider myself to be perfect in anything. There’s always something I can work on to help better the team. It doesn’t always even have to be technical, I could also learn to be better in my leadership role on this team.
Do you find yourself moving into a leadership role?
I’ve been a captain for two years now. I believe I have always played some type of leadership role from the very beginning. As new girls are joining, I’m not getting more “captain territorial” but more as someone who one could look up to. Family and loyalty are two words that mean everything to me. Those are two words that I try to emphasize to everyone, I want to be the teammate that no one feels scared to come to and that always look to when needing someone to lean on.
If you could go back to before the season started, is there anything you would do differently?
No, everything that I have done, everything that the team has done, has gotten us to where we are now. Yes I’m sure there are things I could have done better, but who cares. We are on a 22 [at the time of this interview] game winning streak, there’s nothing I would change at all about that.
Jessica Wetzler, Contributing Writer