Athena Ardila departed the Weston High girls’ volleyball program as the state’s single-season (570) and career (1,642) leader in kills.
She did so despite tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee while playing club ball with Smash Volleyball at the end of her junior year. But through the rehabilitation process, she found a new passion: physical therapy.
Now a sophomore at Northeastern University, the 5-foot-11-inch Ardila continues to be a big hit on the court. In her college debut, she tallied eight kills and one block against Temple, the start of a freshman campaign in which she registered two double-doubles in kills/digs and was named to the Colonial Athletic League All-Rookie team.
This season, Ardila paces the Huskies (12-11) in total kills with 270 and has been on the court for the third-most sets on the squad.
At Weston, she was a Globe All-Scholastic playing for her father, Fabian, who is now the head coach at the Rivers School. Both her father, a club player at the University of Pittsburgh, and her mother Sarah (Franklin & Marshall College) played the game. Her father also was a resident assistant coach for the US women’s national team in 2016-17.
NU coach Ken Nichols said Ardila “continues to grow and mature as a player and it is showing in her ability to take over a match.”
Ardila took a quick break from her studies, and the court, for a chat with the Globe.
Q. What was the most valuable advice you received from your father as head coach?
A. Being patient and knowing that mistakes are going to happen. It’s what you do next with them and it’s how you evolve from playing knowing you’re going to make errors. What matters is how you overcome them.
Q. Do you feel your parents provided a boost to your volleyball game?
A. Absolutely. My family has been a volleyball family obviously throughout my entire life. Since I’ve been a kid, we’ve all been playing volleyball. We’ve lived in Massachusetts my entire life and we’d go to the Charles River and play on grass there.
Q: Any hobbies?
A: I like to cook. It’s tough being in season because I’m not really home a lot, but when I am home, my roommate Katie [Rolfe] and I will do a lot of cooking because we don’t usually get to do a lot of cooking at home. She and I really try to expand our horizons and cook some different things. We made stir fry the other day.
Q: Where is your favorite place to eat in Boston?
A: There’s a place on campus called Amelia’s [Taqueria], which is really good. We like to go there a lot, sometimes after games. I always get a burrito there.
Q: Do you have a best friend on the team? If so, who, and how can you describe the friendship?
A: Katie Rolfe. She’s actually my roommate. We have a very competitive friendship. Last year when we first met, we were fighting for a spot on the starting lineup. I think through that competitiveness, she and I became great friends off the court and on the court. No matter what happens, I know she’s supporting me and she knows I’m supporting her. She actually — over the summer — tore her ACL, and so she and I have had similar experiences and I’ve been able to help her through that.
Q: What’s the hardest class you’ve taken at Northeastern?
A: Right now I’m taking physics. I think because my major is physical therapy, it’s trying to figure out how to use physics in a way that corresponds with physical therapy. Physics obviously [has] more math and more equations.
Q: Plans after college?
A: I want to stay with sports after I graduate — either being a physical therapist or some sort of professional on an upper-level team — whether it’d be Division 1 or a professional team — I think would be super cool. Just being able to help athletes get through injuries and tough parts of their lives. An injury is a huge setback for an athlete who is committed to a sport. Getting through that is important.
Joe Rice conducted this interview. He can be reach at email@example.com.