Santita Ebangwese plays women’s soccer after 4 years with Syracuse volleyball

first_imgSantita Ebangwese moved her body to the rhythm of stadium music in SU Soccer Stadium as Syracuse women’s soccer warmed up for its 2019 season-opener. Teammates around her laughed and joined in.During her four-year volleyball career, Ebangwese would dance with Jalissa Trotter and Christina Oyawale as part of their pregame tradition. Ebangwese’s family is from Cameroon and Oyawale is from Nigeria. When a good beat came on, everyone was encouraged to pay homage to their culture, Oyawale said. A couple times during last season, the trio was even able to get volleyball head coach Leonid Yelin, typically stoic on the sideline, to dance along.Before Ebangwese brought her dance moves to the soccer team, SU hadn’t won a game in nearly a year, spanning from Sept. 2, 2018 to Aug. 29, 2019. She was brought in by first-year head coach Nicky Adams to bring positive energy and a new voice to a failing program. Syracuse went on to beat Colgate that day. Then, defeated Siena four days later.“Santita is Ms. Syracuse, right?” Adams said. “She does well on the court, on the field, and then academically, so I’ve asked her to mentor our young kids … she’s been able to mentor them and keep them in the right lanes.”Last year at this time, “Ms. Syracuse” was on the volleyball court, leading SU to its first-ever NCAA tournament appearance. Ebangwese’s accolades on the court include two-time All-Atlantic Coast Conference First Team accolades and a 2018 American Volleyball Coaches’ Association (AVCA) All-American Honorable Mention.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textGraduate student Santita Ebangwese traps the ball in the match against Fordham University. Elizabeth Billman | Asst. Photo EditorWith one year of NCAA eligibility left and knowing she would be at Syracuse completing a master’s in biomedical engineering, Ebangwese thought “why not?” Soccer was the first sport she played before pursuing volleyball and basketball instead in high school, and when she heard Adams would take over the Orange’s program, she reached out. She’s listed as a backup goalkeeper, but on an injury-riddled SU (2-7-2, 0-3-1 Atlantic Coast) team, Ebangwese has played in four games this year as a striker.“Volleyball I remember I used to be everything,” Ebangwese said. “I understand the game, I understand the IQ, I understand touches, what needs to be happening, when. That is the uncomfortableness of soccer, but hey, I’m here to have fun and just be whatever they need me to be.”Adams gave Ebangwese a two-week tryout with the team in the spring even though she hadn’t played the sport in eight years — since middle school. Ebangwese said her body remembered more than her mind did when it came to juggling techniques and dribbling. In practices and game, there are moments of hesitation before passing which become turnovers because of wrong decisions. Regaining field awareness has been the toughest part, she added.But Ebangwese quickly regained her touch and adapted to her second collegiate sport, and Adams said she thought the graduate student could add depth, especially given the number of injuries SU suffered last year.“I was just like, ‘How can I help you? What do you need me to do?’” Ebangwese initially said to Adams.Kevin Camelo | Co-Digital EditorAfter she made the team, Ebangwese had to revamp her training to get ready for the fitness tests at the start of the season. She hadn’t worked on “true cardio” for four years, she said. Instead of training for jumping and explosiveness for volleyball, she now had to focus on running and agility. Ebangwese had to work on short sprints and more long distance running to be able to stay on the field as a forward.The work Ebangwese put in to succeed in the fitness tests inspired the rest of the team, redshirt sophomore Kailee Coonan said. That’s been a constant praise for Ebangwese going back to her volleyball career.“She was one of those kids doing two-a-days when nobody knew she was doing it,” assistant volleyball coach Derryk Williams said.She’s relearned most of her technique but still reverts back to how she played volleyball at times, especially when going up for headers. It’s a three-step move in volleyball which she still uses, Ebangwese said. Two steps, one with each foot. Then, she plants both feet back down, one at a time, before exploding up.Ebangwese’s impact comes mostly off the field as a role model in the locker room. Yelin called Ebengwese “everything a coach would like to have.” When Oyawale was dealing with personal issues her sophomore year, Ebangwese helped without being asked to. She cooked for Oyawale, kept her company and made jokes to cheer her up.It’s the type of locker-room presence Adams and the rebuilding Syracuse program needs.“Her values on and off whatever it is, the court or the field,” Adams said. “I thought they were, as a head coach at a Syracuse program trying to rebrand the image of this program, something that I thought would be valuable in the locker room for us.” Comments Published on October 8, 2019 at 10:20 pm Contact Arabdho: | @aromajumder Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more