NEW HAVEN, Conn.  -- Yale senior middle blocker Maya Midzik has made her mark on and off the court for the five-time defending Ivy League champs. The two-time all-Ivy volleyball selection was also named a finalist for one of the country's most prestigious academic honors -- a Rhodes Scholarship.  

"Early during the recruiting process, I knew what a determined student-athlete Maya would be," Yale coach Erin Appleman said. "She was the perfect Yale recruit.  She really cares about all aspects of Yale and has really embraced this university."

Midzik moved on to the Rhodes Scholarship interview process last weekend in Boston.  She was one of 12 students from Maine, Massachusetts and Vermont, who advanced to the final stage of the selection process.

Though she was not chosen for the scholarship, the pursuit of this academic honor has required a steady balance and underscored Midzik's hard work throughout her time at Yale. 

"Volleyball definitely takes up a lot of time during the fall, but in a lot of ways I think it also helps me focus on my academic work," said Midzik, who leads the team in blocks this season. "Practice every day is like a reset on the day, a time where I don't think about academics and can just focus on getting better at my sport and enjoy playing with my teammates.  I think having that time set aside makes me infinitely more productive when I finally do make it to the library after practice.  It just forces me to be efficient."

The Rhodes Scholarships are the oldest and most celebrated international fellowship awards in the world. Each year, 32 young Americans are selected as Rhodes Scholars, through a decentralized process representing the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The application includes a personal statement "describing your academic and other interests", a list of activities (basically a 2-page resume), a campus endorsement and endorsement letter, and eight letters of recommendation.  

"I think the biggest moment in my actual application was realizing that I had eight people who knew me well personally, supported my academic pursuits, and who would be recommenders for the scholarship," said Midzik, who was named to the CoSIDA All-Academic Team this fall.

Rhodes Scholars are chosen not only for their outstanding scholarly achievement but for their character, commitment to others and to the common good, and for their potential for leadership in whatever domains their careers may lead.

In Midzik's case, she is a double major in geology and geophysics at Yale.  Her academic focus is on remote sensing, that is, using satellites and airborne sensors to look at the Earth from space. 

Last summer, Midzik interned with NASA's Airborne Research Program.  She is working on a thesis focusing on ocean remote sensing, or using satellites to look at coastal oceans.  She has also traveled to Patagonia and Barbados to learn field work skills and conduct research. 

"I didn't come to Yale thinking that I'd major in either of these subjects, but I just kind of fell in love with both departments, the courses I took in them, and the way that they fundamentally changed the way I looked at the world and the landscape around me," Midzik added.

Midzik wrapped up her Ivy League volleyball career earlier in the month as part of the team's class of 2016.  In her four years, Yale volleyball went 48-8 against Ivy League teams, including a 27-1 home record.

"I'm so proud of all her accomplishments both athletically and academically," Appleman added. "The Yale volleyball program is better because of Maya Midzik." 

Midzik enters her final Yale volleyball match this Tuesday with 513 kills and 191 blocks.

Her on-the-court success, coupled with her efforts in the classroom, have made her a true student-athlete.  Applying for the Rhodes Scholarship has put her time at Yale into unique perspective.

"The application process definitely forced me to think about my academic development to date and my goals for the future," Midzik said.  "The act of applying and of itself has been an incredibly rewarding experience."