Athlete of the Week: 10 questions with Stefan Gjaja, New Trier volleyball
Stefan Gjaja is a senior setter for the Trevians. He will continue playing at Princeton University in the fall.
1. Do you have any pregame rituals?
I definitely always listen to hype music — gotta do that. I always eat a big meal, like from Capt’n Nemo’s, but other than that not much.
2. Why is Princeton a good fit for you?
I think Princeton is a good fit because it has the perfect blend of athletics and academics. It’s a great blend for me. I really like their science program from the visits I’ve done. The people there really seem awesome, are really great to talk to, so I’m really looking forward to it.
3. What is your favorite thing about volleyball?
You can never dominate it as one player. My dad always said, ‘It’s the ultimate team sport,’ and I really think that’s true. In a lot of other sports, if a team has one star athlete, just give the ball to them and they’ll run away with it. But in volleyball, the whole point of the game is that not one person can touch the ball and kill it every time. You really have to be a cohesive unit. A lot of times the teams that are more cohesive will beat the teams with the best athletes.
4. If you could play another sport, what would it be?
Ping pong. I love playing ping pong. I play with my friends all the time and growing up I played it with my dad.
5. What is your dream job?
I think I’d be an astronaut. … Being an astronaut and going to the moon or the International Space Station, that’s just a dream come true.
6. You have a special jump serve. How did you develop it?
A lot, a lot of time. It was a lot of work and I had a lot of good coaches along the way, including (New Trier coaches Sue Elle Haak and Evan Hsieh) and my club coaches and just a lot of reps.
7. If you are in Walgreens with a couple bucks, what are you buying?
I think some Peeps. I love Peeps. When I was little, I would eat them by the dozen. I like the bunnies. The bunnies are cool.
8. What is something people do not know about you?
That I am a dog lover. I have a dog and I spend so much time with her — cuddling with her, taking her for walks, training her. She’s not super good at tricks, but we’re working on it.
9. If you won the lottery, what would be your first purchase?
I honestly think a baseball trading card of a player. I was a big fan of trading cards as a kid.
10. What does this team want to accomplish this year and how do you get there?
Definitely winning state is our goal. In order to accomplish that, we really want to build together as a team. We have a lot of really good individual talent, but that doesn’t mean anything unless we can come together and not play as individuals. It’s easy to get focused on missing one serve or one hit, or bouncing the ball, but when you focus on the team, that’s how you gel together.
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Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319