Something Special

Natalie Perdue

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This series is brought to you by United Dairy Industry of Michigan.

This season, without a doubt, is already a special one.

For me.

For my teammates.

For SMU.

While we are far from done, I wanted to take a moment and reflect on my journey.

It’s been a unique one, filled with numerous ups and downs.

And to a degree, it feels like all of my experiences have led me right to this very moment.

Landing at SMU

Volleyball wasn’t really the first sport I was committed to.

Starting out, I was all over cheerleading. I was convinced that’s what I’d do through college, but then I began to branch out and try different sports.

Soccer didn’t necessarily pan out.

But once I gave volleyball a shot, there was no looking back.

As I got better throughout my youth years, I started to play more competitively, too.

Soon, schools began to notice me, and it was time to think about the recruiting process.

Since I had family ties to SMU, the Mustangs were an obvious contender.

My dad played basketball here and was still involved in the community.

But my parents didn’t want to push me into going there just because my dad was alumni. They wanted me to explore all my options and choose the school that felt right for me.

It was important to them that I’d make my own decision.

And at first, I decided to pursue a different path.

I committed to the University of Arkansas when I was 15 or 16.

The recruiting process started early, because the rules were a bit different back then. But as time went on, I started to feel like Arkansas wasn’t the right fit for me anymore.

I had committed at such a young age, and by the time I was 21, I had different goals and aspirations.

So, I made the decision to enter the transfer portal and explore other options.

And that’s when SMU came into the picture.

Settling in

I decided to transfer, and it’s been an amazing experience since I stepped foot on campus here.

This year, our team is having some incredible success.

We’ve only lost one game in conference play, are on a fifteen-game winning streak, and are about to kick off the NCAA Tournament against Texas State.

I think there are a few factors that have contributed to our success.

First, we have a lot of experienced players on the team. We’ve been playing for a long time, so we know how to handle different situations, whether it’s a tough game or a game we feel like we should win. We also know what kind of work needs to be put in to reach our goals.

And of course, we have great team chemistry. From day one, we all clicked and bonded. We went on a team trip to Greece and Italy before the season started, which really helped us build those relationships.

Speaking of, that trip was absolutely amazing.

We played three games over the span of 10 days, and it was such a fun experience. We really connected a ton throughout the trip, too, and it’s great getting to share once-in-a-lifetime moments with your teammates.

Candidly, I was really looking forward to the shopping experience as well. I’ve always wanted to go to Italy and Greece, and I know they are great spots for shopping.

It really was a dream come true.

When I got to campus, I knew it was where I was meant to be. It was a prestigious school, and I had family in Dallas, so it seemed perfect. Plus, the coaching staff at SMU really took care of me, especially Coach Mat. He's been there for me since I was 14.

Overcoming setbacks

Throughout my career, I’ve had my fair share of setbacks, too.

One of the most significant ones was a stress fracture in my tibia. It was my first major injury, and back then, I didn’t realize the extent of what the recovery process would be like.

It took a toll on me mentally, especially when I got to college and realized that getting back to 100% wouldn’t be as easy as I thought.

But with the support of my parents and a shift in my attitude and approach, I was able to come back stronger.

This season has been a turning point for me personally as well. I’ve worked on my mindset and focused on enjoying the game instead of putting unnecessary pressure on myself.

It’s made a big difference in my performance on the court.

I’ve set all sorts of personal records and, most importantly, played a significant role in the success of our team.

And I’m just so excited to continue the momentum the rest of the season.

My goal for this year is to win a championship, plain and simple. And I believe — no, I’m convinced — we have what it takes to make it happen.

Thank you, SMU

Without a doubt, what sets SMU’s volleyball program apart from others is our culture.

We’ve built a strong foundation and have created an incredibly supportive and competitive environment. And if I could go back and give myself advice when I first transferred to SMU, I would tell myself not to take everything so seriously.

I put a lot of pressure on myself initially, and it wasn’t necessary.

Learning to go with the flow and enjoy the journey has made a world of difference.

As I reflect on my journey so far, it sure has been an incredible ride that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

Through all the ups and downs, I am exactly where I’m supposed to be.

I’m so grateful for my coaches, teammates, and others in the SMU community who have shaped me into a better player and person.

Regardless of what my future holds, I’ll cherish my memories made here for the rest of my life.