Oct. 15, 2010

by Amy Farnum

NCAA.com

The Dowling College womens volleyball program is no stranger to success, advancing to the NCAA Championship quarterfinals four times in the last five years, but this years squad has started the season in almost dominating fashion.

Dowling lost just two players from last years squad that compiled a 29-7 record, and did not add any new players to the team as a couple new recruits did not work out. However, head coach Alex Koszalka was confident that this more experienced version of last seasons successful squad would be just fine without any new talent, and looking at the record, he was exactly right.

The No. 22 Golden Lions have posted a 15-1 through their first 16 matches, sweeping their first 14 opponents. Dowling lost its first set in a 3-1 victory over regional rival New Haven on Oct. 13, and then suffered its first setback of the year, falling to East Coast Conference foe Bridgeport, 3-1, the following day.

We didnt have any new bodies come in for the start of the season, but we did have a pretty large freshmen class last year,” said Koszalka. A lot of those new kids were playing big roles last year and now are playing even bigger roles -- theyre more mature and a little stronger physically. I think thats why weve seen better results this year. Were training on the court and in the weight room harder. The kids are more mature physically and mentally.”

Dowling entered the week leading Division II with a .366 hitting percentage with three players ranked in the top six individually. Maja Poppara is third with a .457 mark, Patrycja Klekotaka ranks fifth with a .440 hitting percentage, while Monika Kasperek follows at a .437 clip. Klekotaka also paces the nation with 1.07 aces per game, while the team ranks fourth nationally (2.81).

Weve got some upperclassmen that are having great individual seasons,” said Koszalka. They are playing like theyre on a mission. Were not doing anything differently than the past as far as our offense goes, but I think the kids are a little more focused. Our serve receive is probably a little bit better. I think were training harder than we have in the past and the kids have responded well to that and the results are showing.”
Weve being running the same offense and same plays for many years, so I guess this is the year it has started working finally,” said Klekotaka.

Not only does Dowlings roster stand out because of its statistical stars and lack of freshman, but the Golden Lions also boast a very diverse group geographically with only two players that are originally from the schools home state of New York. The Golden Lions have players from all across the country from California to Pennsylvania, as well as three international players from Poland and Montenegro.

We recruit kids from all over the country - California, Utah, Colorado,” said Klekotaka. I think part of the draw is that were a small school thats close to New York City in a nice, safe environment. We also have a few international kids that have come in and done a nice job, and they are getting an opportunity to be in the United States, get an education and a degree and compete at a high level in volleyball.”

I had never heard of the program before Coach recruited from a club tournament back home in California,” said sophomore libero Megan Futch. I came out here on a recruiting trip, and everything was very enticing. They were looking at competing for national championships, and I wanted to be a part of that.”

Klekotka, a graduate student from Siedlce, Poland, knew a former Dowling player, and connected with Koszalka through her. She likes the fact the team enjoys an incredible diversity.

Its really interesting learning about different cultures,” said Klekota. Its good for the players from the U.S. and for international students as well.”

The Golden Lions look to get back to their winning ways against East Coast Conference foe NYIT and Felician College in a tri-match on Oct. 16.