Volleyball star crosses Atlantic to join new team

Ashley Sepanski

Timeout with Arjola Prenga

Arjola Prenga has the world at her fingertips. As a star volleyball player and senior health education and promotion major, her future is wide open with opportunity. Opportunity that she says she isn’t quite ready to think about.

When Prenga left her home in Albania to play volleyball for the Flashes, she brought some serious determination with her. After sitting out the first few tournaments, Prenga lit up the court in her opening match against Morehead State with 23 kills and an all-tournament title. She’s been leading the Flashes ever since and plans every day around the next practice or match.

To Prenga, volleyball is most important.

Sports reporter Ashley Sepanski snagged her after practice yesterday to try and find out why.

So when did you start playing volleyball?

I started playing in 2000.

Did you play in college back home?

No, I only played on club teams.

How did Kent State find you?

I was practicing with my national team and (Kent State coach) Glen (Conley) was there in Albania visiting a friend, or some coach, and he looked at me at this practice, and my coach said “There is a coach from USA who wants to talk to you.” Afterward I talked to Glen. He phoned me so I could talk to him.

He said, “We need you to come play for our university.” First time, I refused because I do not know English very well and it is very difficult to get a visa, and I just think it is not possible. So I (told) him, “No, I know it is difficult and I cannot come there.”

Was it hard to learn English?

Yes, for me it was a little hard. I try to only listen and to talk English. I try to not talk with my friends and family in Albania so I can leave my language alone. And my teammates are all the time trying to help me with new words, for practice first because it is more important, and after to learn other words like for food and other things.

Were you scared to come to the United States?

No. America I have seen on television, and they have bad things and good things. All countries have this. It is some people’s dream to come here. For me, I know it is important to study here and practice here to play volleyball. It is more good than in my country. I have more opportunity to learn what I need and what I want.

Do you talk to your family a lot?

Not a lot. I want to stay focused in this language. Also, when I talk to my family, sometimes I say something in English because my mind is thinking in English.

What is the best part of playing in America and for Kent State?

There are good players here. The teams are good. It is new volleyball, not like in Europe. Volleyball here is more fast, it is strong. All of it is the best. My team here is like my family.

What do you like the most about volleyball?

I like to pass, and I like defense, but I love to hit. Hitting is fun.

What do you plan to do after the season is over?

After the season is over, I don’t know what is up. I would like to stay here, (but) I would (also) like to play in Europe. I would like to go and stay in my country.

Contact sports reporter Ashley Sepanski at [email protected].