By Anthony Garcia
September 4, 2013
NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt once said, “Second place is just the first place loser.” To the Dominican University Ladies Volleyball team, second place is where they are now, but don’t think of them as losers; they are already looking to take the next step up the ladder to being number one.
The Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference (Formerly known as the NAC) recently released their rankings for the 2013 season, placing the Stars in second behind the Benedictine University Eagles, last year’s conference tournament champions.
The Benedictine Eagles nabbed 16 of the possible 24 first place votes, with the Stars garnering 3 other votes, barely beating out Edgewood College, dropping the Edgewood Eagles to third place.
This hasn’t hindered the players’ confidence one bit though.
“As a team, we are definitely capable of beating Benedictine this year,” sophomore Setter Christina Wilson said.
Last season the Stars amassed a record of 24-9 as well as going 10-2 in conference play, resulting in an appearance in the national tournament, leaving members of this year’s team excited for the upcoming season.
While the team graduated All-American Jacy Lawrence and NAC Defensive Player of the Year Liz Yakey last year, the squad returns some amazing talent, including NAC Freshmen of the Year Caitlen Foote, All-NAC Second-teamer Wilson and not to mention, senior Hitter Claire Dezelski.
“We received a second place ranking because we lost to Benedictine twice last season,” Dezelski said. “This summer I prepared myself both physically and mentally for the season so that I could lead the team by example and be a great leader on the court.”
Dezelski, a First-team all NAC selection has already done just that, recording an outstanding 329 Kills and 314 Digs, both second on the team last year to Lawrence and Yakey respectively, leading many to think an even greater season may be on the horizon for Dzelski and the team.
“Last year we had a great season and only graduated two starters,” second-year Head Coach Ryan Baumgartner said. “With two freshman starters returning we will have experience on our side… I think we can actually be stronger this year than last year.”
“There’s so much depth this year to our team, there’s not a set group of starters out on the court,” Wilson said, making the Stars much more equipped to handle the long, tiring season.
Sophomore Hitter Olivia Szuszkiewicz agreed with Wilson, saying that the improved depth makes players “fight for spots on the court,” making the team even better.
“Coach has the opportunity to pull one girl aside and put in a different player with enough respect for her to believe she has just as much potential and right to be out there,” Szuszkiewicz said. “He doesn’t have seven girls that he has to rely on; he can rely on all the girls.”
Last season, the Stars were able to grab one of 22 spots in the national tournament last year but had a quick exit against St. Benedict, the 19th ranked team in the country this year.
With more time to improve and gel together even more, Dzelski is confident that the Stars can fulfill many of their goals, even reaching the “tri-fecta.”
“Our main goal this year has been to get the “tri-fecta;” winning the NACC regular season, NACC tournament and a national championship,” Dzelski stated.
Coach Baumgartner agrees with his captain.
“Seeing what I have seen the past 10 days in the gym, this is a realistic top 15 team in the country,” Baumgartner said. “We have a few very talented teams in our conference, so that is always a goal to win that… but making the NCAA tournament and winning a sectional is a definite possibility for this team.”
The Stars kick off their season at the Ground Round Sugar Loaf Classic, playing their first four games in Minnesota before coming back home on September 4th for a match against Elmhurst College.