Image of Ally and Tristan

January 28, 2022, by brzbs1

Scholars in Focus: Tristan Santoyo & Ally Barber

With our Volleyball Headliner event fast approaching on February 2, featuring both the men’s and women’s first teams in back-to-back BUCS fixtures, we recently spoke to two of the players who will be taking to the court for the #GreenandGold. Both Tristan Santoyo and Ally Barber are sport scholars at the University of Nottingham and have both moved across the pond to play here in the UK. We recently spoke to them both about the upcoming Headliner, their volleyball experience and how they have found life as an international scholar at the University.


Ally and Tristan, thank you both for your time during this busy exam period! Could you briefly tell us about yourselves and how long you’ve been playing volleyball?

AB: Absolutely, my name’s Ally Barber and I’m from Seattle (WA) in the United States. I’m 24 years old and I’ve been playing volleyball for about 13 years, starting when I was 11.

TS: I’m Tristan, also from the United States with my home town being Diamond Bar, California. I am 22 years old and have been playing volleyball for 10 years now.


How did you first start playing Volleyball and what was it about the sport that you enjoyed initially?

AB: I played many sports competitively growing up. Volleyball was one of the last sports I picked up, and I want to say It was year 7 or year 8 when I started playing in a school league and then after I decided to focus solely on volleyball and joined a club travel team from under 14’s onward.  What I enjoyed initially about volleyball is how gritty it is. I was a big fan of the physicality from contact sports, and you would think that since in volleyball there’s a net between you and your opponent, you might miss out on that contact/physicality component but the sport is all grit, all action. It is just such an adrenaline rush, like blocking a ball straight down, throwing your body on the floor to dig a ball, chasing a ball and running into the score table. All of it. I live for the bruises and the floor burns! Volleyball is unique in the sense that every single play a point is scored, so it is guaranteed to be fast paced which makes it so fun, both as a player and a spectator.

TS: I started playing volleyball in the 8th grade and I really enjoyed the speed of the sport initially. Once I’d picked up the game, then I always had such a fun time playing with friends whenever possible.


Growing up in America, what level of competition did you play volleyball at and how big of a sport is it over in the US?

AB: Volleyball has much more presence in America than in England, it is a popular sport to play and there are hundreds of leagues/levels to play at both the junior, collegiate, and recreational level. I played NCAA Division I for both beach volleyball and indoor volleyball at California State University, Bakersfield. For Beach Volleyball I was in the Big West Conference and for indoor we were in the Western Athletic Conference.

TS: I played Volleyball at the Division I collegiate level, much like Ally. I would actually say that compared to other sports such as Basketball and American Football, men’s Volleyball is most likely one of the smaller college sports in the States. However, the level of competition is still really high.


What position do you play and how do your strengths help the team?

AB: I play Middle Blocker, which is this position I specialised in at my University in California. With that experience, I am able to read what is going on on the other side of the court and organise our offence and defence to make plays. I’m also loud…and loud is huge help in the sport.

TS: I play the Opposite Hitter position for the team. I make it an effort to bring energy and motivation so that we can strive to achieve our goals as a team.


Are you looking forward to the Headliner and what are your expectations for the day? Have you been involved in a higher profile match like this before?

AB: The Headliner is going to be all vibes! I have been involved in matches like this before but I am looking forward to UoN Volleyball getting the time to be showcased, and for the environment that is going to be created. There has not been a Volleyball match in BUCS showcased like this before it sounds like so its great that its happening. Great for the sport, the club, the University. I think UoN and the Volleyball club is prioritising the spectator experience, and we have some die-hard’s so I’m also excited for what they are going to get out of the day as well.

TS: I am very excited for the Headliner match and experience on the day. Personally, I have experienced high levels of attention when playing big matches, so I would like to keep everyone level-headed and maintaining their composure for the match because the excitement levels will be high.


What was it that made you decide to come to the University of Nottingham and how has your experience been playing Volleyball for the University of Nottingham so far?

AB: I had two friends and former teammates playing volleyball at the University of Nottingham, and I came over to visit them. Whilst visiting, I got a look at their lifestyle here and was able to watch the team play and see the facilities, and for a couple days they needed an extra practice player, so I trained with the team. Before my visit I had decided I was done playing volleyball and was going to focus on getting my masters in the states, but then through COVID and everything, the opportunity to play and get my MSc in Business here came up. I remember how impressed with the facilities I was, I enjoyed the area, and I was still in touch with some of the girls on the team that I had met previously. So I made the “yes” decision almost instantly –  Masters, Volleyball, living abroad? Check, check, check.

TS: I believed that having an international experience in my life would broaden my personal horizon and allow me to engage in different cultures and meet new people.


What have you enjoyed the most about your Volleyball and academic experience in the UK and how does the life of a student athlete compare to the US?

AB: The girls on the volleyball team are so great. They truly all have the sweetest hearts and have been so great to me, which I feel so lucky for. In the US, you are quite literally married to the game. You are practicing/or playing 5-6 days a week, have strength and conditioning 3 times a week on top of it, you’re getting on flights to travel to games, mandatory study hall, etc.  It’s a demanding schedule so you have to make a lot of sacrifices. The training and scheduling here is not as intense so it’s been really nice to be able to have free time to travel and experience the city.

TS: I have really enjoyed getting to meet new people and experience different cultures and locations the UK has to offer. Something the UK has to offer that the US doesn’t is the close proximity to all these other wonderful countries. I am studying Finance and Investments at the University and I was able to practice my time management skills in my undergrad degree, so it has been fairly seamless to continue as a student athlete here in the UK for me.


How have you found the programme here and have you been able to use your experience to help others in the team during certain situations?

AB: There is a good foundation for volleyball here, and it looks like it’s continuing to grow. With my time in US College Division I, I’ve got quite familiar with high pressure situations so being able to use my experience has helped us as a team.

TS: There is definitely a lot of potential for excellence here with the facilities and growing interest in the sport. I try to do my best to use my knowledge of the game to encourage the team in any way that I can help and improve our skills.


What would you say to other volleyball athletes from around the world who are thinking about coming to the University of Nottingham for a sports scholarship?

AB: I would say “why wouldn’t you?!” Seriously, if someone is planning on getting their masters, has love for their sport, and wants the experience of living abroad – here it is! Like I said before, playing sport in the states, you do not get the chance (because you do not have the time) to go study abroad, so playing at UoN is that opportunity to study abroad for those who missed out during their college careers.

TS: I would say that it would be an experience you will never forget for the rest of your life. I know some of my friends would like to stay in London after they graduate from the University of Nottingham and start their careers here which is awesome!


A huge thank you to both Ally and Tristan for their time and we wish them and their teammates all the best when they take on the University of Northumbria in our Headliner fixture on February 2 at David Ross Sports Village.

The Headliner is now completely sold out, however you will be able to catch every single second of the action with our YouTube live stream. The women’s match will kickstart the event at 4.30pm so be sure not to miss it!


Ally Barber making a shot in a volleyball match


As well as a reputation for academic excellence, we have a history of sporting success and are passionate about supporting promising athletes during their time at the University of Nottingham. To find out more about our Sports Scholarships, please click here.

Posted in BUCSStudents