Learning how to balance extracurriculars, classes, and other activities is an important part of college life. For basketball players Noa Comesana Gonzalez ’25 and Maria Angel Lobon ’24, being student athletes entails countless commitments and responsibilities that come with just as many rewards.
Gonzalez, who plans to major in economics and mathematics with a minor in gender studies, plays as a forward and center for the Columbia’s women’s basketball team, after having competed for the U16 national team in Spain. Lobon, who is a chemistry and mathematical sciences major, also plays as a forward, joining the Columbia team after playing in her hometown of Valencia and being named the Regional Championship Final Four MVP twice in 2015 and 2017.
Gonzalez and Lobon both play on Columbia’s basketball team through the Columbia-Barnard Athletic Consortium, a unique collaboration that supports Barnard athletes competing with Columbia undergrads in the Ivy League and NCAA Division 1 Athletics, making Barnard the only women’s college to hold this unique space. The two forwards discuss their experiences with college life as athletes and playing for a team in this “Barnard’s Got Game” Q&A.
How does being an athlete influence your college experience?
Gonzalez: My team is like my family, and I couldn’t imagine my college experience without being an athlete. My priority is not just school, but also basketball, so I have to split up my energy and effort in between both.
Lobon: I feel like being an athlete takes away a lot of things that most people would consider a normal college experience. There are a lot of sacrifices and time commitments. We practice everyday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., so that means we can’t stay up late studying or hanging out with friends, and the rest of the day we are busy with classes or other meetings. I would definitely say it’s a lot of multitasking and time management, but ultimately it is so worth it because you are working toward something bigger than yourself, and that is very exciting.
I also feel like having so many responsibilities on top of schoolwork really helped me mature as a person. I feel like it enhances the college experience in a way, because even though there is a lot you need to give up to be at your best, it really prepares you for the future.
How did you first get into basketball, and how has it affected you since?
Lobon: I started playing basketball when I was 8 years old, because all my friends told me I was very tall for my age and should try basketball. I was doing ballet at that time, and I absolutely despised it, so I saw basketball as a way out of ballet. I tried it out at a small school next to my house, and loved it.
I loved the close community we had and how it felt like a second family. I fell in love with the sport and my team, and I was lucky enough to continue playing with the same team for eight years, which made it even more special, because we all got to grow with each other and see each other become amazing players and teammates.
Gonzalez: I started playing basketball when I was 6 years old. My sister Gaila had already been playing for years, and since I was also tall, my parents thought it would be a good idea for me to try. Basketball became my whole life little by little, and I am so grateful for the opportunities it has brought me. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t [for] basketball.
What is one of your favorite memories of participating in athletics at Barnard?
Gonzalez: My favorite memory from this season so far was the game we played [against] Clemson. We had an amazing comeback, and the energy of the team was incredible. That was the turning point when we started to be taken seriously.
Lobon: After my freshman year was disrupted due to COVID-19, my favorite memory would have to be the Barnard athletes meet we did in the fall of 2021. Seeing all these amazing and inspiring women, and sharing our stories and experiences, was a very cool moment that I really appreciated.
What are your interests outside of basketball?
Gonzalez: I am not going to lie, I would say my whole life revolves around basketball, but I like simple things, such as good music, sunsets, the beach, and spending time with my loved ones.
Lobon: I love Formula One — it is my favorite sport to watch, and I would love to work in the industry in the future. I also love reading, and some of my friends consider me something of a book nerd. My favorite books are the Harry Potter series and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. I also really value my friendships and hanging out with friends. I’m someone who loves adventuring and being spontaneous, so I love exploring the city, too.
How do you balance life as a student athlete with your other interests?
Lobon: It is a lot of prioritizing and being able to say no. I really struggled with that at the beginning. I was so eager to hang out with friends, and spend time socializing, and having a good time that I became very overwhelmed with my workload and basketball. I feel like something that has been very helpful for me is being clear about my priorities, which has really helped me know when to say no to things.
Gonzalez: It is really hard to balance everything. Basketball takes a lot of time away, especially during the season, but if you know how to be organized and how to keep to the schedules you make, you always find time for what you like. I would say it takes a lot of discipline and organization.
– SOLBY LIM ’22