Sawatzky a Fierce Player and Humble Leader on the Court
Jill Sawatzky is finishing her Oregon State career in the same manner she began it - by dominating the competition.
Sawatzky had no problem with the transition to the college game as a freshman in 2007, earning Pac-10 All-Freshman Team honors while putting her name in the OSU freshmen record books. Going into her senior season, she's putting the finishing touches on a remarkable career and threatening many all-time Beaver records.
Prior to coming to Oregon State, the native of St. Andrews, Manitoba, led Lord Selkirk Secondary to three consecutive AAAA Provincial Championships and was the Winnipeg Sun's top-ranked player two years in row.
Why Oregon State?
"Terry is one of the reasons I came to Oregon State," states Sawatzky about her head coach, Taras "Terry" Liskevych. "I was looking at a bunch of schools, but not only does Terry have so much volleyball knowledge, he's like our dad. Combined with the knowledge, he treats us with respect."
Liskevych, a three-time U.S. Olympic coach and four-time NorPac Coach of the Year, couldn't be happier to have Sawatzky lead his team.
"She's a great young lady," says Liskevych. "She has a great demeanor for the game of volleyball. She's even-keeled all the time."
Being the leader on this year's team is quite the responsibility with only four of the 18 players being upperclassmen. After coaching Oregon State's first All-American in Rachel Rourke last year, Liskevych is proud of the way Sawatzky is filling the void left by Rourke's graduation.
"There's a lot of pressure on Jill as the senior on the floor to put the ball down, to pass, to serve, to play defense, to block, and she does a great job for us," says Liskevych.
One thing most great players have in common is a drive to compete and beat the best. Sawatzky picked no better conference than the Pac-10, where Stanford has the most NCAA volleyball crowns and where teams are consistently ranked in the top 10.
"Coming from Canada, I always heard the Pac-10 was the best conference in the country," says Sawatzky. "I want to play with the best and against the best. You don't want to play games against teams you know you're going to beat every night. It's so fun to go out there and know you'll have a battle every night. We are the underdogs in probably every game we play this year and I love that."
Going into games as underdogs is nothing to be ashamed about when playing in a conference as competitive as the Pac-10. Still, as the team leader, Sawatzky knows what needs to be done to take the next step as a team.
"We are definitely a young team trying to work out some kinks right now, Sawatzky says, "Going into the Pac-10 we're going to be working on some things we've discovered so far. We play great for a couple points, and then we let up for a couple points. We need to side-out right away. We need to be consistent."
Sawatzky knows getting these kinks worked out soon is imperative to the team's success. The Beavers face three top-10 teams in their first four Pac-10 matches. This doesn't sway Sawatzky's confidence though.
"We have the talent to do it," Sawatzky says. "We just need to get everyone working as one."
If Sawatzky keeps up her dominant play, matches can be won and records will be broken. There is no doubt she will have made a historical mark on women's volleyball at Oregon State.
"Jill can be right in there with any hitter and any player in Oregon State history," says Liskevych. "I'm thrilled that she came to Oregon State and I'm thrilled to have coached her."