Setter dismissed from team
by Chris Larson
thresher editorial staff
Senior setter Nil Kalagoglu was dismissed from the volleyball team by head coach Julio Morales last week after she elected to skip practice to attend a job interview.
Kalagoglu said she met with Morales to inform him that she would need to miss practice to attend a final-round interview in New York. Morales told her to decide between staying on the team or going to the interview, Kalagoglu said, and she chose the latter.
"[We] couldn't come to an agreement [about] what should be my priority," Kalagoglu said. "It came to the point where I needed to go to job interviews, and I'm not talking about any job interview, I'm talking about very, very good companies - the top companies in the world.
"I do understand how important volleyball is and I feel very responsible towards my teammates, and at our meeting I also said I don't want to quit. ... I guess he didn't want me on the team the way I had my priorities."
Morales declined to comment, saying only that she is not on the team and that matters are still being finalized.
"I can tell you the fact that she is not with the team," Morales said. "The fact is that the process is [going] through the proper channels, and it hasn't been decided what's going to happen."
Morales informed the team before its Oct. 17 match against Southwest Texas State University that Kalagoglu was no longer on the team.
"Coach made an official announcement right before we left and said that, as of right now, Nil was not on the team," senior outside hitter Karolina Zelinka said. "He didn't say where things were officially at. He was still going to meet with her after that, but as of right then, she was not on the team. And that was his final decision."
Kalagoglu said Morales gave her 10 minutes to decide whether to attend her interview, scheduled for Monday of this week, or skip it to be at practice.
"I was sitting in [assistant coach] Jose [Santiago's] office talking to him and he told me, 'You have a meeting with coach [Morales],'" Kalagoglu said. "I go in coach's office, and I have 10 minutes to decide what to do. Ten minutes later, I'm going out not playing - I'm forced to leave the team basically."
Kalagoglu said that she and Morales had previously agreed that Kalagoglu would be allowed to miss practice for the interview.
"Actually, we agreed at the beginning of the season that I would be missing practice for that," Kalagoglu said. "But the first time that I tell him that I need to miss a practice because of my final round of interviewing, [he says] that cannot happen."
Morales declined to comment on any prior arrangements.
Kalagoglu said she had already rescheduled the interview to avoid missing a game.
"I would never miss a game," she said. "The interview was originally on a game date. I told them I cannot come because I have a game, but Monday might be appropriate. But then I mentioned that I have an interview on Monday and coach said no way."
Kalagoglu, who is from Istanbul, Turkey, said that her situation is unique due to her status as an international student.
"I'm an international student," she said. "I'm here with a foreign student visa - I graduate, I have to be out of this country. The way I can stay in this country is that I already know where I'm planning to work ... and I apply for a CPT (certificate of practical training). It takes four months or so for the card to come back, telling that you're allowed because you're working. And if you leave without the card, you cannot get back in this country.
"I cannot leave my job search ... to the second semester. One part is because many, many companies don't sponsor international students because they're not big enough to do that, and the companies that hire international students come to Rice first semester. This job is huge if I get it."
Kalagoglu said she made her decision by considering her future. While she came to Rice to play volleyball, she also came to open the door to future opportunities.
"In the end, each person who comes here comes for the future," she said. "Rice is a good school. You don't come here just because you want to play sports. You also want to get something else out of it. You'd be crazy to come to Rice just for sports and have to hassle with all the classes. ... This excuse is not something I just came up with."
While Kalagoglu said that volleyball had already lost much of its appeal, she expressed concern for her teammates and her responsibility to them.
"I don't love volleyball very much anyway - I'm not happy playing volleyball that much," she said. "The only reason I was playing is I feel responsible towards the people I play with, the seniors and those younger ones who look up to you. I don't want to disappoint them. I want to be there for them. ... I would play right now if they tell me to play."
She also worried that her teammates don't know the whole story.
"The hardest part is I haven't talked to any of my teammates," she said. "It's hard for them. I don't know how much they know about anything. I think they think that I went to coach and told him I quit."
Junior outside hitter Leigh Leman questioned Kalagoglu's focus on the game.
"I wouldn't say it was a surprise," she said. "She hasn't exactly been dedicated or had her heart in the game. All year, she's had a lot on her mind. It's kind of a shame because she's talented, but since then I haven't really thought about it."
Kalagoglu said she had not missed any previous practices for job-related reasons. She arrived late once and left early on one other occasion, but made up the missed time.
Morales declined to comment on Kalagoglu's practice attendance.
Kalagoglu said her scholarship status for the second semester has not yet been determined by the Athletics Department.
"My scholarship for the second semester is being considered by (Athletics Director) Bobby May," Kalagoglu said. "I had a meeting with him [Wednesday]. He was very, very nice and understanding and he realizes my dilemma."
Kalagoglu said that questions surrounding the situation still linger in her mind.
"The thing is that we were really not doing very well when this happened," she said. "I'm asking myself some questions - if the team would be doing very well, or if I had another year, would he have done the same thing? These are all questions that are in my mind.
"I do understand that volleyball comes first, but I don't understand what the big deal is."