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SMC Volleyball: Playko back from Germany

Tom Dorwart | Thursday, August 25, 2005

Two years ago, Saint Mary’s junior Kristen Playko was on top of the MIAA volleyball world.The outside hitter led the team with 496 kills and was named first-team all-conference as a freshman.Playko, however, has higher aspirations. She hopes one day to be on top of the international business world. This desire influenced her decision to spend all of last year abroad in Austria, forgoing her sophomore season. The Norwalk, Ohio native does not regret her decision. She viewed it as an opportunity to combine her career aspirations with her fluency in German. Playko was able to work with international corporations such as BMW while overseas. “I took German throughout high school and during my freshman year at Saint Mary’s,” Playko said. “My family has German roots. It was the best of both worlds for me.” Still, a part of Playko yearned for the competition of college volleyball. While she was able to work out and play at the university in Austria, the competition did not compare with that of the MIAA. “The level [of competition] in college is so much higher,” Playko said. “I had to spend the year working on basic fundamentals.” Coach Julie Schroeder-Biek and the rest of the Saint Mary’s squad sorely missed Playko while struggling to a 6-19 record last season. Schroeder-Biek felt that Playko’s absence could not be understated. “Anytime you lose one of your own it’s difficult,” Schroeder-Biek said. “But Kristen is such a talent. Her positive attitude and communication skills on the court added a dynamic to that team [in 2003] that we missed last year.”Playko kept up with the team via e-mails and online scoring, but she could do little to help the struggles. “I tried to keep up the best I could,” Playko said. “The time difference made it difficult to keep track of the games live, but I e-mailed coach to tell her I was keeping up with the team and with my workouts.”Playko is expected to bring a greater focus and a sense of stability to a team that was in limbo much of last season. A mid-season injury forced Schroeder-Biek to leave the sideline and left the Belles in a constant state of flux. The lack of a consistent starting line-up also hurt the team last year. Playko’s presence this season is expected to provide the Belles with a solid foundation. “This year we are looking to eliminate all those outside forces that distracted the team last year,” Playko said. “I think we’re a much more positive group than last year’s team.”Can one player turn the Belles’ fortunes this season? Schroeder-Biek is eager to find out. “That’s too much pressure to put on one player,” Schroeder-Biek said. “The team is definitely more focused as a group, though, and Kristen is a huge part of that. She is able to motivate her teammates and keep them confident in each other.””The girls have a close friend and teammate returning, and they are really looking forward to playing with her again. They’re ready to get on the court and to start competing.”