Niu is a 19-year-old pre-med sophomore originally from San Tan Valley, Arizona. She received Rookie of the Year honors at last season’s St. Francis College Athletics Awards Dinner after she led the Terriers with 92 blocks and played the second most sets on the team as a freshman. She already has 93 kills in nine matches this season with a career-high of 15 when the Terriers beat New Jersey Institute of Technology 3-0 on Sept. 6.
Brooklyn Eagle Sports: How did you end up at St. Francis College?
Maggie Niu: I Came to St. Francis because they had the program I was looking for, a team that I wanted to join, and it was in New York, of course. It was mostly because of the volleyball team, I’m not going to lie. They have a very good pre-med program here too so that helped, but I liked the volleyball team.
BES: You’re from Arizona, what is it about New York that was important to you?
MN: My sister moved here. She still lives here actually and I am living with her now.
BES: Where exactly is here?
MN: Brooklyn Heights. Not too far from the school. It’s great because it’s convenient and it’s easier for me to live with her than somewhere else and it’s good to be with family.
BES: Why did you sister move to New York?
MN: She moved here two years ago and works out here. She’s a model so New York was obviously the best place for her and once she moved out here, I wanted to follow. I hadn’t thought about St. Francis College when she initially moved here, but I always knew that I wanted to go to school out of state so it was perfect.
BES: So how did you go about finding St. Francis College?
MN: I was recruited. Coach Micah Acoba saw me at a tournament. I can’t remember which tournament it was, but he emailed me after one of the club tournaments and we started emailing back and forth.
BES: I imagine if you were interesting in moving to New York you looked into St. Francis a little bit. Were you excited?
MN: Actually, I hadn’t thought about St. Francis before that. It was more when he emailed me that I first really started looking into it. Even though my sister is here, my first thought was actually to go to a school on the West Coast. But the East Coast is cool too so it worked out.
BES: Was committing to St. Francis a tough decision?
MN: Not really. I had help. It was a family decision, but I had the ultimate say. After I came out here on a visit that’s when I knew I wanted to come for sure. After that it was an easy decision.
BES: What did you do on your visit?
MN: When I came on the visit the team was getting ready for finals so we didn’t do much. We went out to dinner a couple of times and explored the city, they showed me around campus. It was still fun. I really liked the girls and I liked that the classes were small so you could get one on one attention from your professor. It just felt comfortable.
BES: Were there other schools you were strongly considering?
MN: One school in Nebraska, but when I went on the visit it was a little too country for me.
BES: Too country? I guess you picked the right school at St. Francis then.
MN: <laughter> Yeah, that’s for sure. There was a school in Utah, but I didn’t want to go there either. In the end New York is where I wanted to live.
BES: So you were the team’s Rookie of the Year so obviously you made the adjustment from high school to college volleyball well. What was the biggest adjustment?
MN: The biggest thing that was different was having to do weights on our own. When we did it in high school it was combined with other sports, like football and wrestling. At St. Francis, each team gets their own time in the gym. It was just weird.
BES: What about on the court?
MN: Coming from senior year to freshman year, I played a different position so that was a big change. The pace is also much faster, depending on the team you played. Besides just adjusting from high school to college I had to adjust from moving from the West Coast to the East Coast because the systems are a lot different on the East Coast compared to back home.
BES: Were you surprised that you won Rookie of the Year?
MN: I was really surprised because I thought there were a bunch of other freshman on the team that deserved the award. But I was excited and really honored to win.
BES: Is there any extra pressure after winning that?
MN: Yeah, I do feel pressure a little bit for being a leader on and off the court. The coaches and my teammates expect a lot from me.
BES: Do you have any plans for after college?
MN: Not yet. I’m only in my second year so I still have awhile to go. I’m focused on this now. I haven’t really thought about that yet.
BES: What’s your favorite thing to do in Brooklyn?
MN: I like to go to the Brooklyn Bridge Park. It’s a beautiful park and every Thursday they played movies. I went to those a lot.
BES: Do you have a favorite place to eat?
MN: Oh, yeah. I really like to go to Brucie’s on Court Street. It’s pretty good Italian food.
BES: Have you been to any concerts in Brooklyn? At the Barclays Center maybe?
MN: Not in Brooklyn, but I’ve been to a few concerts in New York. One was at Webster Hall and the other at Central Park. I saw Neil Young and DJ Tiesto.
BES: Finally, do you have any superstitions before games?
MN: <laughs> Yeah. I have two and my teammates kind of hates me for one of them. I can’t wash my knee pads until the end of the season so they smell which is why my teammates hate me. The other is when I put my socks and shoes on I have to do left and left and right and right.
Thanks so much to Maggie Niu for taking the time to speak with me for this Q&A and good luck to the Terriers this season. They are currently 3-6 and they will play Quinnipiac again on Friday (they beat Quinnipiac 3-2 on Wednesday). They also play Lehigh University and Marist College on Saturday during the Lehigh University Tournament.