Dvorak ‘the glue’ for DSUAfter five seasons as a Dickinson State volleyball player, senior Shaunda Dvorak can firmly say she is no stranger to adversity.
By: Dustin Monke, The Dickinson Press
After five seasons as a Dickinson State volleyball player, senior Shaunda Dvorak can firmly say she is no stranger to adversity.
“It’s definitely been a career with ups and downs, but through it all you learn so many life lessons,” said Dvorak, a Dickinson High School graduate. “So I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
In Dvorak’s career at DSU, she has played for three different coaches.
Only days before her sophomore season began, her mother Gina died following an eight-month battle with cancer. She missed the entirety of what was supposed to be her junior season recovering from a back injury.
She was there when the volleyball program was placed on NAIA probation for the 2011 season — the Blue Hawks didn’t win a single match that year — and though she had no part in an investigation in the 2011-12 school year that centered on volleyball players receiving improper payments from the university, she and a handful of other current DSU players went through it all.
Not including the 2010 season that she sat out as a medical redshirt to recover from a back injury, Dvorak has played on four teams that have combined for just 19 victories. The year she was sidelined, DSU was 21-13 and tied for the Dakota Athletic Conference title.
However, none of that has deterred Dvorak from standing her ground and becoming the Blue Hawks’ stabilizing presence throughout her senior season.
“She’s very important to everyone else in that she helps hold the team together through everything we’ve gone through,” DSU junior libero Rebecca Johnson said. “She’s kind of the glue that keeps us together.”
Perhaps no one knows better what Dvorak brings to the team than DSU interim head coach Jennifer Hartman.
The two were part of the same recruiting class in 2008.
Hartman said Dvorak has been one of her biggest supporters since she was forced into the unlikely situation of taking over the head coach position following the Sept. 14 resignation of former head coach Maura Bronte.
“Seeing it from both sides, she’s an inspiration,” Hartman said. “She’s one of my heroes, just how she has faced all of that and is still such a positive person and is one of the most positive people on the team. She’s happy about life and happy to be doing what she’s doing and to see that and to see someone take negative situations and turn them into positive learning experiences, it’s been amazing. She’s an inspiration to her teammates, to her community, to everyone, to me especially.”
Dvorak and the Blue Hawks wrap up their regular season at home this weekend. DSU hosts the University of Great Falls (Mont.) at 5 p.m. today at Scott Gymnasium and takes on Montana State-Northern at 2 p.m. Saturday.
The 6-foot middle hitter has been a force at the net this season with a team-high 85 total blocks. She averages 1.1 blocks per set, which ranks fourth in the Frontier Conference. She is fourth on the team with 122 kills, about 1.5 per set.
“You put in all that hard work for the past four years, you literally have to give it everything you have because you’re not going to get any better after this year because you’re done,” Dvorak said.
Hartman said Dvorak is playing more confident than she has ever seen.
“She’s finally just going out there and having fun and playing the game the way she knows how and is confident about herself and it is definitely showing up in her playing,” Hartman said. “She’s just exceeded all expectations that anybody had for her. It’s really exciting.”
Dvorak said her time at DSU has helped shape her as a person.
She is a nursing major and still has three semesters remaining before she graduates.
But wherever life takes her, Dvorak said she is glad she had the experiences she did with as a volleyball player at DSU.
“I’m glad I was here for the lessons I’ve learned and here to help others learn lessons through the experiences that we’ve all been through,” Dvorak said.