From Istanbul to SMC: Aybike Topuz sets her sights high in Los Angeles

Leaving home, experiencing new culture, developing a new language and pursing her dream of volleyball is everything Aybike Topuz has done during her time at Santa Monica College.

“I wanted to experience life in the United States and learn with the American culture and the language,” said Topuz.

The sophomore setter from Istanbul, Turkey has high hopes for this year as the team's starting setter.

With Turkey being a long way from California, it seemed like Santa Monica would be out of reach, but not for Aybike.

Aybike’s father is friends with a soccer coach at the University of Southern California, and when the Topuz family first saw SMC, they knew it would be the perfect place for her to continue her volleyball career.

Santa Monica College welcomed Aybike with open arms. She was ready to face any challenges that might come after moving so far from home.

“I was nervous about the language, my English wasn’t that great at first but my teammates were really helpful and it made it very welcoming when moving here,” said Topuz.

Topuz has hopes to become first in the conference this year along with a personal goal of the best setter in the CCCAA.

When first moving to America, the game of volleyball was different than in Turkey.

“When I first came here, I was talking to the coach and she was asking me questions and I kept saying yes, and yes but I actually had no idea what she was saying,” laughs Topuz, “We decided then it would be best if I had a translator, that’s when my friend from Turkey came to help us.”

Topuz was faced with challenges when she saw the positions and system was different here but she was ready to prove she was a great player.

While she is still learning the way the game is played here in America, she seems to be having no struggles during her games.

Starting as setter, Topuz’s teammates look for her for advice both on and off the court. Topuz is a team player, always helping when others are down and playing for not only herself but for her whole team.

With her second year in full swing Topuz is making her mark on the SMC volleyball court.

Topuz had a record high fifty assists to help her team achieve a win against Hancock College.

Setting records and achieving goals are something that comes natural to Topuz, which is why she has chosen a path in sports marketing.

The 19-year-old sophomore has hopes to transfer to a great university, preferably in Southern California, and eventually hopes to become a professional volleyball player one day.

Volleyball has always been a huge part of Topuz’s life both here and in Turkey. She wants to continue to play as long as she can, but has a path ready for her if volleyball doesn’t work out.

Coach Ryan was excited for Topuz to come all this way to play for her. She knew she would be a great asset to the team.

“I got to see some footage of her, playing in Turkey, it was great, now here she is, it was all very exciting,” said Ryan.

Her second year is going by fast and both Topuz and Ryan have high hopes to finish the season with a winning record.

Being the setter that she is, she basically runs our offense. She runs our show, she's offensively an aggressive setter, that’s what we need,” said Ryan.

The setter is such a crucial position and Topuz has no problem being the best on the court.

While this is only Topuz’s second here in the U.S., she is already coming back this season as an all-conference player.

Not only has she seen success in just her first year, colleges such as Chicago State have shown interest in Topuz.

They plan on coming to watch her this season, and she hopes to take her volleyball knowledge there next year.

Topuz is sought to be one of the best setters that SMC has seen in the past twenty years. The game that she plays is smart, she knows the next play before it happens and knows how to do it right.

“Firey, hungry, willing to do everything she can on the court to win,” said Ryan.

Topuz is the key player on the court for every play, even when serving. In her game against Hancock College, Topuz served five aces and was one of the main reasons the team walked away with a win.

Topuz has many vital assets but her stability and consistency are what have made her most successful here at SMC.

“I was a setter when I played, the things I see her do are what I would do,” said Ryan, “with many things she does we say, that was a brilliant decision,” said Ryan.

As Topuz comes into her ninth season playing volleyball, her teammates and coaches describe her as a mature player.

Topuz looks to continue her strong season, and looks to better herself as a starting setter.

“Volleyball is what I love to do, I cant wait to take this to the next level,” said Topuz.