JACKSON TWP — The handshakes and introductions were barely over before Angela Seman and her new volleyball teammates boarded a plane for Sao Paulo, Brazil.
They had to learn their tendencies on the fly in just a handful of practices before they departed for the 2018 FISU America Games.
It was a whirlwind for Seman, a Seneca Valley graduate and a redshirt senior libero at the University of Pittsburgh.
When they arrived in Brazil, the United States team was tasked with playing against some of the best — and more experienced — teams in the world.
“Most of those countries had played together for a long time,” Seman said. “We only played together for a week.”
Still, Seman and her teammates were undaunted, winning the bronze medal at the games.
“We came in third, which really isn’t bad considering we were playing against teams that had played together so much longer,” Seman said. “It was like a mini-Olympics. It was really awesome.”
Seman, though, is used to improvising.
Her role on the court demands a certain level of flexibility.
Playing the position of libero is all Seman has known since she first began playing volleyball.
She excelled at that position at Seneca Valley, and after sitting out her freshman year at Pitt, has been a rock in the middle of the court for the Panthers.
“It’s completely different than high school,” said Seman, 22, who now suddenly finds herself as the eldest on the Pitt roster. “Girls can hit really hard, and they can be tricky. Yeah, balls are getting hit hard and all over the place, put you still have to dig and pass with a purpose.”
That isn’t always easy, but Seman has become proficient at it.
Especially in the big games.
Seman led the Panthers in digs last season with 419, but was especially effective in the rough and tumble ACC.
Seman had 12 digs and two aces against Virginia in a 3-0 sweep that gave Pitt the conference championship.
During a nine-game ACC winning streak at the end of the season, Seman had 118 digs.
“We didn’t really set out to win the ACC, but when we made the tournament we thought, ‘Hey, we might as well win it,’” Seman said.
Pitt won an NCAA Tournament match before losing to Penn State, which was undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the nation at the time.
Seman had 16 digs in the loss to the Nittany Lions.
Seman has come a long way since her first season at Pitt.
“I think I’m a completely different person in life as well as in volleyball,” she said. “I think time and experience has changed me, but I also think it’s my coach (Dan Fisher). He really pushes us to not be just volleyball players, but better people.”
Seman has shown that in many ways, namely on her mission trips.
The two weeks she spent in Brazil with Athletes in Action was also more than just volleyball.
It was the third mission trip Seman has taken since she’s been at Pitt.
Nearly three years ago, Seman went to Croatia.
Her focus now is on the upcoming season, one that should be a new challenge for her and her team.
All the starters are back and Seman is the unquestioned leader on and off the floor.
“We’re going to have a target on our backs, that’s for sure,” Seman said.
“It’s a little challenging being the oldest player on the team now, Everyone on the team is 18 to 21. They’re all younger than my sister (Bella Seman, a sophomore at Elon University).”
Seman said she wouldn’t be the leader she has become had she not sat out her freshman season.
“It was tough that year, but it was the year I learned the most,” she said. “All I had to do was learn and it was the best thing for me.”