Santana leads Minnesota with energy in final year

The senior is first on the team in kills so far this season with 232 in 52 sets.

Outside hitter Daly Santana jumps for the ball against Northwestern University at the Sports Pavilion on Sept. 30.

Joe Sulik

Outside hitter Daly Santana jumps for the ball against Northwestern University at the Sports Pavilion on Sept. 30.

by Emily Polglaze

After a weekend match, Daly Santana often still has a weak voice on Tuesday.
As one of two seniors on the Gophers volleyball team, Santana is usually the first to celebrate big plays on the court with her team, something she finds important to do in her last season. 
“I get pretty emotional, communicating and celebrating in the moment,” Santana said. “It happens every match, and after every match I lose my voice.”
Since her arrival to Minnesota from her native Corozal, Puerto Rico, in 2012, Santana has been making a big impact with the Gophers program.
In her freshman year, Santana was a standout. In addition to playing every set as a rookie, Santana had the fourth highest number of kills on the team with 301. 
She continued to climb the rankings until her junior year, when she finished first on the team in kills with 425. 
Santana has steadily improved on the attack over the past four seasons, but her serve has always been solid. 
“Watching Daly serve is great; she’s one of the best servers I’ve ever seen,” sophomore middle blocker Molly Lohman said in September. “She gets so pumped up afterward, and everyone wants to be like her.” 
Santana has led the team in service aces every year since she was a freshman and has 15 in Minnesota’s 14 matches this season. 
Santana’s impressive performance on the court and her character made her a team captain this season.
“She comes in every day and gets a little bit better,” head coach Hugh McCutcheon said. “She’s committed to not just talking about doing the right things, but she does the right things.”
In her final season, Santana has been doing plenty right on the court.
Santana holds the record for most kills in a match this season across the Big Ten, when she had 39 in Minnesota’s five-set victory over the University of Louisville Sept. 4, which was also a career high for her. 
Santana was also named the Big Ten Co-Player of the week after her performance in the Diet Coke Classic in September, along with being named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament. 
Santana’s resurgence this season has been important to her, as last season she injured her knee early on and wasn’t able to play the way she wanted 
“Last year, I was dealing with injuries, and I really don’t know what I would’ve been capable of,” Santana said. “But right now I hope I can keep providing for this team.” 
Off the court, Santana demonstrates leadership and a strong sense of dedication through her volunteer experience.
Santana is a youth studies major and volunteered with this year’s HopeDay Festival, a carnival that took place in TCF Bank Stadium for children with cancer and other life-threatening medical conditions. 
Though nearly halfway through her final regular volleyball season, Santana is taking time to appreciate every moment.
“It’s awesome,” Santana said. “Every year that I’ve had the opportunity has been great, but to have in the back of my head that this is my last year … every time I can see that crowd and get that feeling again is amazing.”