Niles West hitter Olivia Rusek brings improved back to Skokie
Updated: August 13, 2012 1:11PM
SKOKIE — Niles West rising junior Olivia Rusek is in the middle of a summer full of volleyball that is split into three different phases.
First, Rusek, along with several of the CSL’s top players, joined the Wildcat Juniors 16 Black at a season-ending, four-day tournament in Orlando, Fla. Facing some of the nation’s best volleyball teams, 16 Black finished 29th at the AAU National Championships on June 27.
Twelve days later, on Monday, Rusek reunited with her Niles West teammates at the opening of the Wolves volleyball camp, signaling phase two of her busy summer volleyball schedule.
Overlapping both sessions was a third phase, and it takes place almost entirely off the court.
“I’ve been receiving letters since freshman year, but recently I’ve been calling more coaches and they’ve been wanting me to call and everything,” said Rusek, an outside hitter who can’t take calls from coaches until Sept. 1. “It’s pretty exciting.”
Rusek and several other of her Wildcat Juniors teammates are used to drawing notice from college volleyball programs. The interest started her freshman season with a stream of letters, which has developed into a flood of mail and an unofficial visit to Miami (Ohio) University.
She reported that the Redhawks’ staff welcomed her in flattering, hospitable fashion.
“You feel like a VIP,” Rusek said. “You meet the trainers, the athletic director, they take you around campus in a car, they show you special monuments and parks and everything. It was really fun and a great experience.”
One thing is the same whenever Rusek plays this summer — either at Niles West or with Wildcat Juniors. What almost immediately jumps out about the 5-foot-10 hitter is her leaping ability. However, she worked diligently during the club volleyball season to become more well-rounded volleyball player.
Rusek paid particular attention to her hitting technique and her defensive consistency.
“I really wanted to improve my serve receive,” Rusek said. “I have pretty good form, but my passes would either be very good or they would be all over the place. I think there definitely was (a noticeable improvement).”
All three phases of Rusek’s full summer figure to impact her upcoming high school season as she moves into a more prominent role because of the graduation of outside hitter Milena Zalloni (Carthage College).
“Last year the other girl who shared the position with me, she was really tall and she could put the ball away,” Rusek said. “Now that she graduated, I feel like I have to help out and be a strong leader and everything … . I feel like last year I got more consistent, but I wasn’t as aggressive as I know I can be.”