Simply the best

By Lawrence Bailey

What a year it’s been for Joanna Niemczewska.

The humble third-year Dinos women’s volleyball player took it upon herself to shine this season after failing to make the grade at Canadian national team tryouts last summer. Stung by the rejection, she vowed to take her game to the next level, to get past the inconsistencies that plagued her first two seasons as a Dino and make a statement.

Statement made.

On Tue., Feb. 24 Niemczewska found out she was not only a Canada West First Team All Star, she was also named Canada West Women’s Volleyball Player of the Year. She is certainly a deserving recipient, finishing in the top five in the conference for both kills and points, while placing in the top ten for both hitting percentage and digs.

“In a sense I just want to say ‘take that, look what I did,’” smiled the usually reserved Niemczewska when asked how it felt to make a statement to the national team coaches. “I wasn’t even chosen as an alternate or anything last summer and now this–it’s just awesome.”

Head Coach Kevin Boyles has praised his star all year, and isn’t wavering in his praise for her now.

“We’ve always talked about how much potential she has and we sat down with her at the beginning of the year and said you can’t be in your third year talking about how good you’re going to be,” he explained. “She really stepped up to that this year. She’s been really consistent, has a ton of maturity and is great under pressure. [The award] is a credit to her mental toughness.”

While it was hard to wipe the smile from her face following the announcement, Niemczewska’s focus is still on the ultimate team prize.

“It’s so intense, I seriously would have never guessed,” she beamed. “We still have one more thing to win though, it’s time to focus on that.”

Rally points:

Niemczewska wasn’t the only Dino to be recognized Tuesday, as fifth-year Amanda Moppett joined her on the first all star team, and third-year setter Natalie Schwartz was named to the second team.

“I’m pissed off,” said the outspoken Schwartz, when she found out she’d been passed over for the top squad. “My heart sank when I saw it. That’s not my goal, it wasn’t my goal to be on the second team. I want to be known as a top-ranked setter.”

Conspicuous in her absence from either squad was third-year libero Neda Boroumand, likely ignored more due to the politics of the selection process than her play on the court.