The Razorbacks are celebrating International Student Week Monday-Friday, Nov. 15-19. We will be highlighting a couple of standout student-athletes who have embraced the challenges of school and athletics in the United States. They face many obstacles from language to food to customs and styles but all of them share one thing-they are Razorbacks.
FAYETTEVILLE – The popularity of Olympic sports like volleyball and swimming and diving have directly translated into benefits for a pair of University of Arkansas teams. Both freshmen, setter Raymariely Santos and diver Kesha Naylor, have made immediate impacts for their respective teams.
During her freshman season with the Razorbacks, Santos has worked her way into the starting setter position, earning her first start in Arkansas’ SEC opener against Georgia. She responded with a season-high 50 assists and helped lead the team to a five-set victory. Her success in Cardinal and White continued as she earned SEC Freshman and Defensive Player of the Week honors in back-to-back weeks.
"I’m curious to know the last time a setter won defensive player of the week," head coach Robert Pulliza said. "That doesn’t happen very often. She takes great pride in her defense and she’s a great competitor. Defense is all about effort and she’s a hard worker so her success is well earned. Overall, her play is really starting to come along and it’s something we can keep building on from here."
Santos, a native of Ponce, Puerto Rico, brings a wealth of experience at the highest levels of volleyball as a past captain of the Youth and Junior National Teams for her home country. Most recently, she served as the team captain for the Puerto Rico Junior National Team at the 2010 NORCECA Junior Continental Championship and helped lead the squad to a fifth-place finish.
Directing the team from her setter’s position, Santos was a member of the National Team that played at the Grand Prix in Brazil, Japan and Thailand. She helped the team earn a silver medal at the NORCECA Championship, the first-ever medal for the nation of Puerto Rico at the tournament.
Naylor has brought extensive international competition experience to the Razorback diving team. The freshman who is a native of Saskatchewan, Canada, has been successful in her first season at the University of Arkansas.
At her first meet as a collegiate diver, Naylor’s scores qualified her for the NCAA Zone Diving Championships on the one-meter board as well as on the three-meter board. The first in the one-meter dive where she earned 296.80 points and the second was on the three-meter board where she earned a score of 304.30. Naylor also earned qualifying scores at Tennessee with 271.80 in the three-meter and 298.50 on the one-meter. She has hit a qualifying mark in either the one-meter dive or three-meter board in every meet she has competed in this season.
"I thought she had the athletic ability," diving coach Dale Schultz said, "but her positive attitude and her work ethic have made her one of the best athletes I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with, from a physical standpoint and just a general coaching standpoint. She’s a pleasure to work with, her transition has been great, and I look forward to big things from her."
Naylor is one of two divers for the Razorbacks to have come from Canada to compete.
"I was welcome to stay and compete in open, which is for all age groups, but they’re always happy for you to go to the states to continue with your sport," Naylor said.
Before joining the Hogs, Naylor was a member of the Saskatoon Diving Club where she earned a 10th-place finish at Senior Nationals in three-meter. She attended the Olympic trials in April 2008 and placed 14th in the three-meter diving event.