Feature, International, Sports, Syracuse

One Student-Athlete’s Struggle

Mariia Levanova shares her triumphant two years in the United States.

By Anna Connelly SYRACUSE, N.Y.  —  On August 5th, 2015, two days after her seventeenth birthday, Mariia Levanova moved from Saint Petersburg, Russia, to Syracuse, N.Y.,  in hopes to pursue a volleyball career.  Not only does Levanova have a dream to play volleyball professionally one day, but by playing in America, she gets an education, also.

“It’s a great opportunity to combine school and a volleyball experience. That’s why I came here,” Levanova said.

Recruited when she was in tenth grade, Levanova realized what an opportunity it was to be able to come to America to play a Division one sport.

“When I was in Russia, student-athletes usually don’t go to school. They study, but they don’t actually study,” chuckling as she says this, Levanova continues by saying that athletes in Russia focus more on their practices and games, than they do on their studies, and that is the expectation of them.  “If you get hurt or something, how are you going to find a job if you don’t have a diploma or an education?”

But, with an opportunity as great as the one Levanova had when she was in tenth grade, comes difficulty.

“The first thing in my mind was, it’s in English…I don’t know anything in English!”

Levanova did not know English…at all.  Upon arriving in the states, English became a difficulty in not only volleyball, but Levanova’s classes as well.

“I had no idea what professors were saying,” Levanova recalls. “I just didn’t talk.”

Not only did she have little English speaking skills, but within the first two months of coming to America, Levanova tore her ACL.

“October 11th…yes, against Virginia Tech.”

After battling through rehabilitation for the past two years, and several surgeries on her knee, Levanova is ready to take the court by storm this 2017 volleyball season. Not only has being back been great for her volleyball career, but also her English-speaking skills.

“The team has helped so much in my English speaking.  I’m just so excited to get back out on the court!”