March 22, 2021 – By NJP
We would like to welcome Alia Baig to the NJP Family. Alia will be our new contributor covering the Skylands Conference and beyond. All of us at NJP are so excited to have her join the team. We have spent the past few weeks chatting and Alia brings such a positive spirit and passion for the game of volleyball as well as excellent journalism skills. She will be writing and researching and we could not be happier to have her join us.
We thought it would be a great idea to have the NJ volleyball community meet Alia through our normal interview process. So… please meet Ms. Baig!
Tell us a bit about yourself, Alia?
My name is Alia Baig, I am a sophomore at Ridge High School in Basking Ridge of Somerset County. Meaning I will graduate in the year 2023. I have only lived in New Jersey for a brief 1 and a half years. Before New Jersey, I lived in Seattle, Washington from 2011-2019. Before that, Richmond, Virginia from 2007-2011. And finally, Dallas, Texas from 2005-2007. So I have been all across the country, both coasts and the middle! Aside from school and volleyball, my family is big on travelling. I have been to 26 countries in 15 years and I hope to increase that number and time progresses. My favorite places thus far have been Santorini, Greece; South Africa, Iceland and many countries of the Caribbean. As you can tell, I like warm, scenic beaches! School is very important to me and I get that and my work ethic from my mom. She is a doctor with a PhD in Pharmacy. She works harder than anyone I know yet still makes time for her family. Being a STUDENT-athlete is a big part of who I am. When I’m not on the court, I am usually studying, playing on the soccer field, playing piano, hanging out with friends and family, or travelling!
When I was younger, and I was thinking about career ideas, as my teachers would ask me; journalism would always come to mind. Maybe because of the news I watched at home, or maybe because my favorite singer Carrie Underwood has a bachelor’s degree in communication and journalism from Northeastern, but nonetheless, I wanted to be a journalist. Now of course, my views have changed a bit, and geared toward medicine. But I guess deep down, journalism will always be a possibility. And here at NJP, I accomplish what 8 year old Alia dreamed of, and I get to zoom in on volleyball, the sport I love. I would say it’s killing 2 birds with 1 stone, but this internship with NJP is not a task to complete for me, it’s an opportunity, and experience I am so lucky to have obtained. And I’m very excited to see where this takes me.
Who is your favorite college or pro volleyball player and why?
To be blunt, 6’4 middle blocker Lauren Stivrins at Nebraska, or 5’8 outside hitter Nicole Hada at Johns Hopkins University. But not to glimpse past Kathryn Plummer or Kerri Jennings, they’re simply brilliant. But they honestly have all of the hype and fan love. Now, Stivrins and Hada are different in many many ways. One is a middle blocker, one is an outside. One plays division 1, the other plays division 3. In my mind they are different, but both amazing in their own ways. First off, Hada is only 5’8, which seems short for a college volleyball player. But the main reason as to why she inspires me, is mainly this reason, her height. For a 15 year old, I seem to be on the taller side at 5’8, but getting into higher levels of volleyball, 5’8 gets less and less impressive. But Hada playing college volleyball at Hopkins as a 5’8 outside hitter gives hope to players like me who fall short of 6’0. Nevertheless, at Johns Hopkins. One of my dream schools due to their highly advanced medical programs; especially for pediatrics. Now moving onto Stivrins. Watching Lauren play is honestly like watching the Rock as a ballerina. This sounds so weird, as if it’s an insult, but it’s truly not. She is so elegant and calm on the court and she helps her team remain sane even in the most frantic of times. Her transitions are smooth, and her blocks are clean. But when Stivrins goes to hit that ball, she is a powerhouse, a force to be reckoned with, a hero. Her power is insane, her strategy is idealistic, and her poise is something players everywhere aspire to have. In the end, I love both Hada and Stivrins, but if I were to pick my single favorite player, it would be the Cornhusker, Lauren Stivrins.
How long have you played volleyball and what inspired you to take up volleyball initially?
I started playing volleyball in the 6th grade for my middle school’s intramurals team. Not a very competitive year, but quite educational. Moving onto 7th and 8th grade, I played on my middle school varsity team and was exposed more to beach volleyball. Though Seattle beaches are more rock beaches! Once I got to New Jersey, I tried out at Ridge, and eventually played my first year of club volleyball for Atlantic Valley Volleyball Club for the 14 Red team. It was a fun season and I met a bunch of new teammates and friends. This summer, despite COVID, I played some beach with Great American Volleyball and had a great time. Now I play for Ridge and on the AVVC 15 Red team! For me, it’s not really about what inspired me to take up volleyball, it’s why I decided to pursue it. In 6th grade, the main reason I played was because all my friends were playing and I didn’t have anything else to do. Time went on and I realized that I didn’t have many hobbies aside from travel and soccer, which I took up because of my parents. Volleyball was the first independent task I took up. Being on the taller side in middle school aided with that! My parents have always been supportive of me finding something I love! Volleyball for me right now is not only about my passion for the sport, but the life lessons I learn on and off the court, and the relationships I make playing volleyball.
Who is your support group?
Moving coast to coast many times teaches you to make new friends, but not to get too attached. Making and leaving friend groups has taught me the strong bond of family. Specifically, my sister. She’s 10 years old and strays away from the volleyball crowd. She plays soccer for PDA. And though she may seem young, she is one of my closest friends. Because I can always count on her to be there. Being the older sister means you must set an example, and be a role model to those around you. And being a role model for her, if full of pressure, but it means I always must be my best self. It’s a bonus that she always looks up to me and supports everything I do. So ultimately, my support system is my family.
Tell us about your school?
Right now, I am a sophomore at Ridge High School in Basking Ridge, New Jersey. Ridge is a very competitive school, athletically and academically. According to niche.com, Bernards Township School fall to #10 of the best public school districts in New Jersey. And that’s a very big deal, considering New Jersey itself is the 2nd best state for education falling behind Massachusetts. With this competition comes dedication and productivity which Ridge students must display on a daily basis. Being amongst fellow students on the Principal’s Honor List is something I work hard for, but I enjoy. I along with everyone else at Ridge are so lucky to have access to such an amazing education, as others aren’t as lucky. At Ridge, my favorite subject is definitely science, specifically my Honors Chemistry class and my Biomedical Sciences class. Though these are challenging classes, I learn so much valuable information. My American Literature class is also very fun, I appreciate the writing aspect of the class as opposed to the reading aspect! Apart from volleyball at Ridge, I also contribute to many extracurriculars, like clubs. For example, Ridge Model United Nations, Ridge Research Club, Red Cross Club, Ridge Business Club, Chemistry Olympiad and League I, and some more. School and education is very important to me, not only do I value my education, I enjoy it!
Tell us your story…
Well, the majority of my story has been written above, but there is still more to me, Alia! I was born in Dallas, Texas where the majority of my mom’s side of the family resides. Later on, I moved to Richmond, Virginia for a couple years. There, my younger sister was born. She’s basically my best friend. She’s been with me through everything where friends have come and gone. No matter where my family moves to, she’s still there. We then moved to Seattle, Washington where my sister and I more or less grew up. I spent ages 2-6 in Virginia, so my early childhood. Then ages 6-13 in Seattle. Seattle is where I picked up volleyball, and ultimately to this date, Seattle was my favorite place to live. All my closest friends are in Seattle, the schools I went to, the teams I love, the scenery, and most of all, my life. Growing up for the majority of your life in one place makes it really stick with you. One thing that I probably miss the most about Seattle is my friends. I made all my best friends in Seattle. Though we have all endured some character development, we stuck with each other through thick and thin. Now, sometimes the best parts of my day is when I call some of them or talk to them. The summer of 2019, my family moved to Basking Ridge. Moving to New Jersey had its ups and downs. The main up being the high level of education New Jersey has to offer. Especially the Basking Ridge area. This was very important to my parents. After a year and a half, living here has definitely brought on some hardships, but I believe the best chapters of your life come with adventure. Moving to New Jersey was a new obstacle to tackle that brought an adventure. And I’m excited to live out this chapter.
What are your other hobbies?
Aside from volleyball, when I was younger, I did gymnastics for a while. I was super into gymnastics but eventually gave it up. It was a huge time commitment. Another sport that I participated in a lot was soccer. This was mainly due to my parents. My dad loves soccer, so he tried to get his kids into it, however it only stuck with my sister. I played in elementary and in middle school. I occasionally play now, I did play soccer at Ridge this past fall season since volleyball was moved to the spring. But volleyball remains my main sport. Moving away from sport, I also play the piano. I started playing at a younger age, though when I moved here to New Jersey, I moved away from my teacher. Piano has been a lesser part of my life recently, but I do want to get back into it. Though I am no artist, I do like handwriting and painting. Handwriting in the sense of calligraphy and bullet journaling. Over the past quarantine, I did spend some time painting. Right now, I’m working on a set of paintings for my wall! Previously, I mentioned my love for travel. Travel aside from volleyball is definitely my biggest and favorite hobby.
What else would you like us to know about you?
Apart from indoor volleyball, one thing I love is beach. I began playing volleyball with beach and AVP, in Seattle on lake Sammamish. Though I didn’t get as much beach practice in as I’d hoped this summer due to the pandemic, I had a wonderful time playing with GAV and I hope this summer will be better.
Though I do love volleyball, I am very passionate about my education and academics. I love volleyball, don’t get me wrong. But my volleyball career or skills will not make me a doctor, and quite frankly, volleyball will most likely not get me into my dream school. I focus on my school work a lot more than I train for volleyball and that’s okay! There are people who spend the entirety of their high school career working to get better at their sport as opposed to their academics and I do applaud them for that. It takes hard work and skill to do so, and that’s something I wish I could devote my life to. But I can’t. And that’s why I like to work hard in school, and keep my eye out for opportunities such as this! I would love, so much to play volleyball in college, but I have always been taught that my school work comes first. So I better enjoy volleyball while I can.
What do you hope to accomplish in your volleyball career?
I believe deep down, the majority of volleyball players could say playing division 1 volleyball is their dream and they hope to accomplish this. And I guess you could say the same for me. But then again, education comes in and I don’t think I could balance such a big commitment with my goals for my life ahead of me. Maybe if I was 6’8 Dana Rettke or 6’6 Kathryn Plummer, I would abandon my dreams of being a doctor and live the life of an international volleyball player. But honestly, I am not. I am 5’8 Alia Baig who plays for fun. I have thought about playing in college, and I believe it would be very fun, simply not D1, more like D3. Personally, my dreams have adjusted and I have a finalized goal of playing D3 volleyball for Johns Hopkins University. The best to both worlds. Accomplishing my volleyball hopes and dreams, and becoming a world-renowned pediatric surgeon while I’m at it. Sometimes my goals can be unrealistic and honestly, I have no idea what the future holds, but since we were kids, we have been taught to make goals and follow through. And I hope to do just that.