Pavan driven by desire to be great

Campus Crawl rolls into Lincoln, Neb., to kick off the 2005-06 season, but football's not the focus. We've landed smack-dab in the middle of the country to get to know Nebraska sophomore Sarah Pavan. The preseason All-American and Big 12 Player of the Year will lead the top-ranked Cornhuskers against No. 3 Stanford, No. 4 Hawaii and No. 5 Penn State in the AVCA/NACWAA College Volleyball Showcase at the Qwest Center in Omaha, Neb. Friday and Saturday. But the Huskers' outside hitter took a break from preparing for the showcase to talk Tommy Lee, Huskers volleyball, Canada, "Saved by the Bell" and more.

Mike Hall: Tommy Lee is starring in a reality TV show where he goes back to school at Nebraska. Did you see him?

Sarah Pavan: Well, I saw him when he was filming it. He was on my floor in the dorm. I walked out of my room and the whole camera crew was in the lobby outside the elevator. I ran away, but my roommate went up to talk to them.

Hall: Why did you run away?

Pavan: I didn't know what was going on! I saw all these cameras and just took off.

Hall: Would you room with him?

Pavan: No, I don't think I would. He seems a little too crazy and out there for me. I'm a pretty quiet, down-to-earth girl and I don't think I could handle it.

Hall: Give me a singer you would room with.

Pavan: Probably Kelly Clarkson. Just watching her on her show ["American Idol"], I got to know her better than a typical singer. She seems more like a normal person because of that show.

Hall: Why does Tommy Lee refer to Nebraska as UNL? I'd never heard that before. Is that common?

Pavan: Yeah, there's so many little schools in Nebraska … like Nebraska Kearney [pronounced Car-knee] is UNK and Nebraska Omaha is UNO. So down here if you just say "I'm goin' to Nebraska," it could be any of those schools.

Hall: At Nebraska Kearney do they teach you how to work at town fairs and circuses?

Pavan: That would be pretty funny, but I can't say they do.

Hall: What's your favorite non-volleyball moment from your freshman year?

Pavan: Probably going to my first football game here. It's like 75,000-80,000 people all packed into the stadium and everybody's wearing red. And the first game I went to they were remembering 9-11. So under the seats were cards with red, white and blue colors. You held them up and the whole stadium ended up being the American flag. It was amazing.

Hall: What kind of hidden gems are there on campus in Lincoln?

Pavan: Our campus is pretty tiny. Hmm … something I think is interesting is this statue by one of the buildings. It looks like a big knot, but it has every single letter of the alphabet in it if you look at it a different way. It's this big statue that looks twisted, but it's designed to show every single letter. I think that's pretty sweet.

Hall: What goes through your head during a game?

Pavan: Basically, I just focus on doing what I have to do to help the team win.

Hall: You never have any songs pop in there?

Pavan: No, I just focus on the team. Sometimes the fans are so close to us, you get a peak at the fans and see what they're up to. So, I'll think of the fans sometimes. Or what I have to do next.

Hall: You'll have thousands of people watching you in the AVCA/NACWAA Showcase. How will that alter the way you play?

Pavan: Hopefully, it won't alter my play at all. Obviously, I don't think any of us have played in front of that many people before. But even though it'll be intimidating, they'll be on our side, so we'll want to win it for them as much for us!

Hall: What motivates you?

Pavan: Just the desire to be great. As long as I can remember, I've set goals for myself. Some say they may be hard to reach. Some think some of my goals are unrealistic. That motivates me -- those who doubt me and my goals. I always want to be the best at everything I do, and I think that really drives me.

Hall: You're a 4.0 student and a biochemistry major, huh? So you're pretty much stupid?

Pavan: Hah. Yeah, I guess so.

Hall: Why bio-chem?

Pavan: I'm not exactly sure what I want to do. I want something in science, and biochemistry will give me options in everything I want. I can do anything with a biochemistry degree.

Hall: What would be your dream job then?

Pavan: Other than playing professional volleyball? Hmmm, either doing research on genetic diseases or being a family doctor.

Hall: What makes you laugh?

Pavan: Lots of things. I make myself laugh a lot. I'll just say something that's so ridiculous and start howling.

Hall: Like what?

Pavan: Like, someone on my team will do something and I'll crack a joke that I think is just so funny. It's so random and out there that people are just like 'OK, whatever.' People make me laugh. My dad makes me laugh more than anybody.

Hall: How come?

Pavan: We have such a similar sense of humor. He was my coach in high school and club, so we were together a lot. He's a lot like me. And he doesn't care. He'll just say what he's thinking and it'll just kill me.

Hall: You're from Kitchener, Ontario. What's it like being a Canadian?

Pavan: It's awesome! It's amazing. I love it. People down here have no idea. They have no clue of anything to do with Canada. They will make fun of my accent, make fun of everything I say just cause it's different. They have no idea that Canada is basically the same as here.

Hall: How are some Americans ignorant to your homeland?

Pavan: They'll be like, "So do you guys have high school sports?" I'll be like, "Well, yeah, we do." And they'll say, "Is it basically nature up there? Do you guys have any big cities?" I'm like, "I live a half hour from Toronto which has a bigger population than the state of Nebraska!" They think it's a bunch of little towns where people don't really do anything. They'll say, "Hey, have you ever heard of Jay-Z?" I explain that we mostly listen to American music, mostly watch American shows on TV. It's basically the same, just a little different.

Hall: What's the best thing about Canada that we Americans don't know about?

Pavan: I'd say the free health care. Other than that, I don't know. I just think people in Canada are just nicer in general. They are accepting. They love you no matter who you are. And also, we don't have guns up there. I saw my first gun a month ago and was freaking out. I'd never seen one before.

Hall: What was the situation?

Pavan: I went home with one of my friends who lives in the country and his dad just has a gun to go hunting. And I was like, "Oh, man." They let me shoot one. I told my dad and he said, "Oh my gosh, don't do that again."

Hall: Your mom played on the Canadian national team in the late '70s. What's the best tip she ever gave you?

Pavan: She said take every opportunity you have. She was going to go to the Olympics and they were boycotted that year. So she just told me take every opportunity you get, because you never know when it's going to end or be taken away from you.

Hall: Non-dirty Web site you frequent?

Pavan: Volleytalk.

Hall: Is it volleytalk.com?

Pavan: I don't really know what it is. I just go to Google and then go to it. Candystand.com has lots of great games on it.

Hall: How much of a "Saved By The Bell" fan were you?

Pavan: I was a huge SBTB fan. I watched it every single morning before I went to school in high school. I was definitely a fan of Zach Morris and A.C. Slater. I love that show, definitely.

Mike Hall is the signature anchor for ESPNU.