You may know her as the team captain for the Orange on the volleyball court or maybe you know her as the former ACC Freshman of the Year, ACC first team, second team, and all-academic team member. But how did Polina Shemanova get this good?
It starts at a young age for Shemanova who grew up in Russia. Surprisingly it wasn’t always volleyball, her parents, who both have a volleyball background, didn’t want to “force” the sport on their oldest of 3. Instead, Shemanova took up a variety of different actives like drama, and then tennis and swimming, and even ballroom dancing before finally settling into volleyball in 3rd grad under the guidance of the same coach her mother had all those years ago.
During that first season of volleyball Shemanova also kept the tradition of Russian folk music alive when she joined the folk choir at school, which she did until she graduated. Having a passion for music joining the choir was a no brainer, even though the music wasn’t popular or mainstream it was something that Shemanova was proud of and committed too.
Shemanova knew from a young age that she was going to be someone that thrived with a spotlight on her and now being enrolled in the Broadcast and Digital Journalism Master’s Program at Syracuse that realization gets closer and closer. Her mom even saw this future for her daughter at a young age.
“My mom was always telling me that I didn’t have any problems making friends,” Shemanova said. “Or asking random people on the street just random things.”
It is no surprise you will often see Shemanova walking around campus with a smile on her face and talking to everyone. Even if it is the simple question of: how is your day? Shemanova takes the time to talk to everyone.
Once volleyball was chosen it was an “all-in” mentality. Shemanova’s father would go as far as spending time everyday practicing at home with his daughter acting as an unofficial assistant coach. That was on top of driving 40 minutes each way to get to official practice. During those trips that is where homework was done, and lunch was eaten.
In the summer, Shemanova would even compete with her parents playing in beach volleyball tournaments.
The seven day a week grind would pay off for Shemanova as she would play for the Russian Junior National Team. While playing for the national team Shemanova would find her love for travel, getting a chance to play across Europe, China, and Mexico. She would even be presented with the opportunity to play professionally in her home country.
Caring for her education, as well as her passion for the sport, she would turn down that offer… for now. However, a former teammate is the reason she came to the states and Syracuse specifically. Being reunited with a friend helped make the transition easier, plus studying English since 2nd grade, a decision made by her parents, would help the adjustment too.
There is a lifestyle away from the court, rather a place, for Shemanova to take her mind off life and her sport. Finland is only a 3 hour a drive from her home and a frequent family vacation spot. The life outdoors in the beautiful landscape would include fishing and the popular practice of picking mushrooms. Shemanova hasn’t been in 5 years but looks forward to getting back to her “sanctuary.”
Unfortunately, Shemanova doesn’t know the next time she’ll be able to get back home. With graduate school and visa rules the process has become a lot more complicated.
Shemanova will enter her 5th year at Syracuse University. She will serve again as the team captain. She will still hold one more year of eligibility after this season that she said could be used down in a warmer state on a beach volleyball team.
The season begins at home for the Cuse Volleyball team on Aug. 20th when the Orange take on Binghamton at 1:00 P.M.