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Urycki leads charge in volleyball culture change
It’s not easy to lead the way for any team, but for Quinnipiac women’s volleyball junior Katie Urycki, it seems as though the leadership role comes naturally.
Urycki finds herself atop the stat sheet midway through the 2015-16 season. She is currently first in kills (207), kills-per-set (2.69) and total attacks (632), while sitting second in digs (167) for the Bobcats.
Not only has Urycki been putting up team-leading numbers on the court, but women’s volleyball head coach Kris Czaplinski notes that she has proven to be a key component to the team’s chemistry off the court, too.
“She’s got a great personality,” Czaplinski said. “Sometimes it’s with jokes, but she’s a great communicator and great leader off the court with the sophomores and freshmen.”
Although she receives praise from her coach, being a player teammates look up to is never easy.
“It’s definitely hard stepping into that role, or any type of role, as you become an upperclassmen,” Urycki said. “We’re trying to build a culture here.”
The last two seasons have resulted in a combined record of 7-57, so redefining the culture surrounding the volleyball team is something Urycki takes great pride in.
“I really want the culture to go in the direction of confidence,” Urycki said. “We need to know, and we need to believe that we can win.”
Urycki notes that it’s not an overnight process, a culture shift for the better will take some time.
“We’ve definitely already made strides compared to the years past. The culture now is actually the best since I’ve been here,” Urycki said. “This is one of the first years that everyone just loves to be with each other.”
Like Urycki, junior setter Emma Ogden has been aware of how off-court actions turn into on-court successes.
“Now we are the ones that don’t have to do everything,” Ogden said. “We have a little more control and a little more say.”
The team’s efforts off the court have translated into recent success on the court.
Just 16 games into the season, Quinnipiac’s 3-2 win against Saint Peter’s University Peacocks on Oct. 4 gave them their second win of the season, already matching last year’s total.
Urycki played a key role in both wins, leading the Bobcats with 20 kills in their first victory over Holy Cross, then leading the team with 22 digs against the Peacocks.
“She is a great communicator and she’s got a great offensive game to her,” Czaplinski said. “She knows how to get everybody else on the team involved.”
Czaplinski is aware of Urycki’s offensive upside, and as a result made a position change for this season.
“We moved her over from the outside to the right side recently, and she’s been thriving in that position,” Czaplinski said. “She sees the right side a little bit better. She sees the block, she sees the defense, she’s a natural right side hitter. She’s strong, and mainly just based off seeing the defense, seeing the blocks, and seeing the court, she just seems a lot more comfortable on that side.”
Making the switch from an outside hitter to playing the right side has been an adjustment, but Urycki has taken the change of position as a positive one.
“I love it,” Urycki said. “Kat [Miller], our setter, is great. She can get me the ball and it’s awesome. I really like it.”
Ogden, has noticed a shift in her game as well.
“It’s been different,” Ogden said. “I think her hitting percentages have been the best that they have ever been.”
Although the personal success has been there for Urycki, she knows that team efforts will ultimately result in victories.
“There’s just a higher level of volleyball being played at practice, so that adds to the intensity and even though that is there, we still have such a long way to go in that direction,” Urycki said. “We have the talent that we need so that’s a direction I really want it to go in and we’ve definitely already made strides compared to the years past.”
The strides moving forward may sometimes look like baby steps, but any improvement is positive.
“Like I said, we have a lot better chemistry together this year,” Urycki said. “We have everyone wanting to go in the same direction, so I think that will help us a lot moving forward.”