The Brown and White spoke with three volleyball alumni — Lauren Bright, ‘20, Mariah Brantley, ‘17, and Emily Poole, ‘20, — to discuss their favorite Lehigh memories and achievements since graduation.
Q: Tell me a little bit about yourself and what you do professionally?
Lauren Bright, former middle blocker: I graduated last May from Lehigh with a bachelor’s in computer science engineering, and now I work at Lockheed Martin, which is a defense contractor for the U.S. government. I work in Morristown, New Jersey, but I live in Philadelphia currently.
Mariah Brantley, former libero: I graduated in 2017, and right out of school I worked in California for an internship in technology. I work in cell culture process development, and I graduated with my degree in bioengineering, so it was kind of a smooth transition there. After working there, in California, I got a job offer in the Boston area, where I still am. I’ve been up here for about three years. I work for Sanofi Genzyme, also still in process development, kind of a lab- based setting.
Emily Poole, former middle blocker: I’m actually still a student at Lehigh. I’m the graduate assistant coach for the volleyball program, and a student in environmental policy.
Q: What are your favorite memories from being on the volleyball team?
LB: My favorite was probably getting to live with the people in my class. Just being around them pretty much all the time, and then everyone making jokes during practice, or when we would travel, being on the bus with everyone. Looking back, I’m so happy I was able to be on a team because it was a built-in set of friends, and everyone got along so well.
MB: I feel like our senior nights were always such a highlight. While I was there, I’m pretty sure we won all of our senior night matches. That was always so special, because, you know, the parents would come, families would come. More often than not, it was a good outcome for the game, so going out after such a great, great experience.
EP: Just being (a) really close team junior and senior year, I lived with all the girls in my class, which is probably where most of my favorite off-court memories come from. On the court, I think, beating American in three my junior year is really up there, and then winning both senior nights my freshman and sophomore year where it was really fun.
Q: What is the most valuable thing that you took away from playing a team sport at Lehigh?
LB: Looking back, the most valuable part of that was how much friendship can play a role in at all. I know people who played volleyball at other schools (and) not having close friendships with the people you’re playing with can make a big difference. I was so fortunate, I mean, especially just within my class, like the senior class last year, we all got along so easily. When you all kind of get each other and get along with each other, it’s easier to play together because you know how to pick each other up or you notice things easier.
MB: I feel like keeping calm, like in pressure situations. A lot of the players on a lot of the teams don’t get full scholarships. A lot of them are just there because they know they’re passionate for the sport. I think finding that motivation within yourself, making sure that you have the right reason for doing things, and so I carry that on. Why am I doing this? It’s not just because I get paid for it or anything like that, It’s really the people I’m doing it with and the passion that I have for it.
EP: Leadership skills and being able to work with people who are different from you. Being able to have a group of almost 20 different women come together for one common goal was pretty awesome. I think that’s something unique that I can carry forward as an adult and into my career.
Q: What has been your proudest moment since graduation?
LB: After finishing college athletics and college in general, I realized that now I have all of this opportunity to do what I want with all my free time. I think it’s been a pretty big accomplishment for myself to be able to just accept that I have all this new time.
MB: Professionally, I got promoted last year, which, personally, I was very proud of that. I felt like I had earned it. But then, by a volleyball standpoint, I played in this doubles tournament and the top division and ended up winning some money. That was fun, and I was pretty proud of myself.
EP: Probably the last two weeks, we’re back in the gym, and all the girls are working really hard and they’re staying healthy. Being able to work with them makes me really proud of all of them.
Q: Do you still play volleyball?
LB: I’ve been thinking about it. Once COVID eases and I have the opportunity to do things in the community, I’m thinking about maybe doing some volleyball, but I also have recently started to play tennis for fun.
MB: Right after graduating, I felt like I really needed a break from volleyball. I was kind of done with the competition,I felt a little burnt out. But then, when I moved up to Boston, I started going to open gyms here and there. I met people who just love this sport, even though it wasn’t a high level. I got to play more different kinds of volleyball like beach doubles and grass doubles, and I found that I could still improve my skills in those and still use the competition.
EP: Over the summer, I play cross doubles, kind of like beach volleyball, but in the grass, because we live in Pennsylvania. And then I still participate in practice and help out if someone needs a partner or we need an extra person on the court.
Q: What advice would you give to a new member of the team?
LB: People can see how much effort we put into things, and that’s how you’ll gain other people’s respect — by putting in effort. Showing your willingness to be a part of the team, and then just kind of enjoying the experience, because sometimes it can feel kind of grueling. You kind of wonder, is it really worth it? But it definitely is — there are so many positives to come out of it. Just enjoying the time with your friends and teammates is such a big part of what makes that whole experience so good.
MB: Go in there with an open mind. Reach out to the people in your dorms. Don’t be afraid to just say hi to someone. So much gets thrown at you, like different people have different experiences, so I’d say definitely be open-minded.
EP: Enjoy all the little moments, even when things aren’t going your way. Just take it all in because it goes super fast.