By DJ Jamiel
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
West Virginia volleyball freshman setter Lamprini Konstantinidou (lam-PREE-knee kon-stan-tih-NAY-thoo) is a broadcaster’s worst nightmare. Her five-syllable last name is a mouthful. In addition, she possesses an abundance of talent that warrants her name to be spoken a multitude of times during each match. It is tough to blame a commentator or public address announcer for a misspoken character. After all, the name is engineered for a different alphabet.
“My initial reaction when seeing Lamprini’s name was ‘what am I getting myself into’,” said West Virginia’s public address announcer Brett Ervin. “My head was spinning.”
Ironically, Konstantinidou can feel Ervin’s pain. Hailing from Thessaloniki, Greece, she understands speaking a language that is not your own. That was the biggest hurdle she had to overcome when arriving in Morgantown, West Virginia, this past June.
“The initial transition was hard,” Konstantinidou said. “The language difference in class and on the court has been tough.”
Every freshman faces an array of lifestyle changes when arriving to college. Konstantinidou had those common issues. Magnifying them was the element of translation.
“Finding buildings during the first day of class was terrible,” Konstantinidou said. “I happened to be the only foreign student in my lecture, which did not help.”
Konstantinidou handled the transition turbulence well, never doubting that things would improve. Her confidence was soon rewarded as the situation in the classroom and on the court got better. Three people allowed this to happen. The first was junior teammate Anna Panagiotakopoulos.
“My dad actually went through the same experience as (Konstantinidou),”Panagiotakopoulos said. “I understood some of the struggles she was facing.”
Panagiotakopoulos and Konstantinidou share more than last names that can make a broadcaster’s stomach drop. Panagiotakopoulos grew up in a household filled with the Greek language. Surrounded by it from an early age, she can speak the dialect.
“Having someone that spoke her language was great,” Panagiotakopoulos said. “Having someone to turn to with questions and translation was important.”
The second person that Konstantinidou turned to was her mother.
“My mom came to the United States for a month after I got here,” Konstantinidou said. “Her visit was exciting and I wanted to show her everything.”
This allowed the foreign student to feel less homesick, which was something she battled early on.
“My mother saw how much of a family the team at WVU is,” Konstantinidou said. “That helped a lot.”
Helping to create such a family atmosphere was the third person who aided Konstantinidou’s acclimation to America - coach Jill Kramer.
“My husband is from a foreign country (Netherlands),” Kramer said. “That has allowed us (WVU) to make our foreign players comfortable.”
Kramer was never concerned that Konstantinidou would not make the jump between continents smoothly. As a head coach, Kramer thinks there are two factors that allow foreign players to find success.
“First, they have to make the move for the right reasons,” Kramer said. “Secondly, as a coach you have to be honest about the process.”
Kramer is straightforward with those she recruits from other countries. The challenges they are likely to face are laid in front of them, leaving little room for surprises.
“I try to give them a real idea of what it is like,” explained Kramer. “I think this allows them to make the best decision possible.”
With help from teammates, family and coaches, Konstantinidou is acclimating just fine. On September 1, the Big 12 named her league Rookie of the Week. Early in the season her assist numbers were some of the best in the country. Size and ability are strengths of Konstantinidou’s game.
“She has nice size for a setter, which is hard to find,” Kramer said. “Konstantinidou is strong. This allows her to set the ball from anywhere to anywhere.”
Much like off the court, Konstantinidou has adjusted to college volleyball. The international game tends to be slightly slower. The ball used during international play also contains different paneling on its sides that can change the trajectory.
“Volleyball in the United States is much faster,” spoke Konstantinidou. “That was something that I had to adjust to.”
Her numbers throughout 2014 have progressed, and the amount of blocking and serving errors she has committed have consistently diminished, all results of her adjusting to the game.
“Certain rules and how they are called in America can be different,” explained Panagiotakopoulos. “She is a smart person and at the end of the day, the game at its roots is the same.”
These commonalities are what bind Konstantinidou to her teammates. Once play begins, linguistic differences become irrelevant.
“It was difficult communicating at first,” explained Konstantinidou. “Once I began playing, everything got easier.”