Arica Davis is a junior middle from Hillsborough, N.C. She played in 18 matches (48 sets) in 2022 during her first year as a Golden Gopher. Davis averaged 1.17 kills and 1.23 blocks per set. She tallied season-highs in kills (8) at Wisconsin on Oct. 29 and blocks (8) vs. SE Louisiana on Dec. 2.
Take us through your childhood. Where did you grow up?
AD: I was born in Chapel Hill, N.C., so when I was young, I was repping the UNC Tarheels all the way. Campus is like five minutes from my house so we’d always go to volleyball, football and basketball games there. I’m actually the only one in my family that was born there though. My dad is from Brooklyn, mom is from South Carolina and my sister was born in Nashville.
How about your high school career?
AD: I went to school a little bit in Hillsborough, N.C., before going to a private school called Trinity in Durham, N.C. I ended up transferring to North Raleigh Christian Academy for my final two years of high school, which is where I got my degree. It was a little bit short of an hour drive from my family’s house. It ended up being the perfect school for me because I found some great friends there and a lot of the girls I played club with were there as well.
What other activities were you involved with as a kid?
AD: My parents immersed my sister and I in a ton of different things. I used to play basketball, gymnastics, did jazz and balet, tap dancing.
You have an older sister named Alyssa who is one of the people who got you into volleyball. How did that process go?
AD: If you go by the books, I was always looking up to her and doing what she did. I went to the same school and hung out with a lot of the same people when we were younger. We went to the same middle school and she started playing volleyball. It looked fun, but at the time I was crazy obsessed with band. Me and my best friend were battling for first chair in clarinet, so we were focused on competing in that every day. Anyways, one day, my older sister played for Triangle Volleyball Club and they needed an extra person on their U13 team. I didn’t know how to play besides going to the UNC volleyball camps during the summers. But the team needed a player and it was a free trip down to Florida, so I decided to play. I had the absolute time of my life with those girls, even though I didn’t know what I was doing. The girls on my team convinced me to tryout for their actual team for the future, and I didn’t know if I was ready for that commitment.
What made you decide to stick with it?
AD: At tryouts they had me go with the middles, and I ended up making the top team. I expected to make the third team with a bunch of the girls that I played in the tournament with. So it was the last thing I was expecting to make the best team, but the competitor in me was excited. That really got me into volleyball. A year or so later, schools were reaching out to me in eighth grade (before the rules changed) and the rest is history.
How did your recruiting process go?
AD: I didn’t know a ton about the college recruiting process until around ninth grade. My parents kept a lot of the letters from me so I could stay focused, as eighth grade is very young for all of that. When I was in ninth grade, my mom and I went through letters and did a ‘yes,’ ‘no’ and ‘maybe’ piles of schools I would consider. After that, I started taking some visits. At times I was enamored after a visit and I think I wanted to commit on every visit. My parents were my voice of reason, and they would always make sure my head was in the right place and I thought through things clearly.
You eventually decided on Ohio State and had a very successful rookie year, making the Big Ten All-Freshman Team and being named the AVCA Northeast Region Freshman of the Year. What was your favorite memory about that first year?
AD: I really enjoyed my teammates there and getting to play your first year in the Big Ten was super fun.
You entered the transfer portal after the fall of 2021. What made Minnesota stand out in that process as a school you were considering?
AD: Originally, I reached out to the Minnesota staff through email and let them know I was interested. I told them my whole story and we set up a phone call with the rest of the staff. We quickly set up a visit and my mom and I flew out to Minnesota. Before I even got to campus, though, I had a phone call with [redshirt junior] Taylor [Landfair]. I told her that I’m sorry that she had to talk with me, because she probably didn’t want to talk to a recruit, but she was amazing. She’s the absolute sweetest person ever. We talked on the phone for like 45 minutes, straight ‘girl talk.’ She wasn’t sugar coating anything and just kept it real. After talking with her, I remember looking at my mom and being really excited about going to Minnesota.
What eventually led you to choose Minnesota?
AD: We went to a Soul Food place in Minneapolis that was so good. The coaching staff also made me feel very comfortable. They were very confident and I felt like this was the right place for me. Besides that, I had been watching Stephanie Samedy since I was in eighth grade. She is a huge inspiration for little me, seeing a black woman like that absolutely dominating the game. It made me want to be an inspiration to other girls that look like me as well. Minnesota seemed to be the perfect place.
2022 was your first season at Minnesota. What was your greatest success and your biggest challenge that you overcame?
AD: I think my greatest success was kind of adjusting to a different dynamic of how practices go. I was very open-minded and the more the semester went on, the more I was able to be coachable. Even when I would completely fumble it, I would keep going in headstrong. I really connected with my teammates and I think they started to trust me and I take that as an accomplishment as well. Some challenges were not comparing myself to others. But that’s really hard, especially on a big stage with so many good players around you. Even when you are competing with other people, self-sabotage can trickle in. What I learned is that even though you’re competing for a spot, things are going to work out one way or another. As long as I worked as hard as a I could, I could find peace in that.
At the end of 2022, you really became a fixture in the starting lineup and had been playing very well. Obviously after the season ended, a coaching change had to be made. How did you deal with that period of time?
AD: I had to do a little soul-searching with what I wanted to do. I took a step back after the semester ended, and when I went home I never found myself thinking that I didn’t want to come back to Minnesota. I didn’t have a reason to leave. I feel like I’ve just given myself to this program and I have a lot more to give. [Athletic Director] Mark Coyle kept the team super updated throughout the process and let us know how things were going every step of the way. I trusted him.
From hearing your interactions at practice this spring, it seemed like you really hit it off with the new staff as well.
AD: Don’t even get me started! I work a lot with [assistant coaches] Ky and Eric, and they are the most kind, energetic people I’ve ever met. They’re like a second form of my parents. Kylin [Munoz] has taught me so much about blocking already, so she’s been amazing. Not only does she have that technique that she’s been pushing on me since day one, but she has that energetic and bubbly spirit that makes me want to be coached by her. With Eric, those two together are so dynamic and vibrant. At the same time, they can be very stern and serious, and you can tell that their intentions are so pure and so positive. They’re amazing people, the whole staff is.
How do you feel heading into the 2023 season?
AD: I honestly feel great. I feel so stable and I can really be myself. I’m just so excited for this year.
What goals do you have for your team and yourself this year?
AD: I think we can go win it all, we have what it takes. But there’s so much it takes. You have to be so good and of course there’s a little luck to it. We of course want to win the Big Ten title. We have some big time games coming up, so the competition is going to be crazy. For myself, I really want to have a great year blocking. I’m at the stage of my career that when something goes my way, I know what I need to do to adjust and fix my mistakes. I’ve always been known as a fast, dynamic and torque player, but I feel like I’ve improved so much and I’m excited to show that. I plan on being more dynamic, more intentional and absolutely giving 110% every game. I won’t shy away from celebrating our team’s successes.
Off the court, what do you like to do when you’re not playing volleyball?
AD: I love to go on walks and heading to parks. I always have music on and have my digital camera with me taking pictures. One of my best friends here is named Lauren, and we always go thrifting and to good food spots. We have picnics by the lake all the time and just enjoy each other’s company. I love getting Wrecktangle pizza as well. That and I love to go to movies.
Favorite Food: Salad and Bacon Cheeseburgers
Favorite Sport to Watch: Men’s College Basketball and Women’s Softball
Fun Facts: I’m a great roller skater (four wheels)
Hidden Talent: Guessing what people’s Zodiac signs are
Netflix Show: Outer Banks
Pro Sports Team: New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers
Vacation Spot: Bahamas
Inspiration: My parents