Olivia Rusek is Number One


By Gabrielle Abesamis

There were only a few seconds left in the first quarter, and the Vikings were a few points away from tying with the Wolves.  As the ball makes its way to Niles West’s side of the net, senior Felicia Phan sets the ball into the air, and Olivia Rusek, a 5’10, tan and blonde junior wearing the number one on her jersey, makes an approach for the spike.

“As a setter, I always have three scenarios in mind before a play: who to set on a good, decent, or bad pass,” Phan said. “[She] is one of those hitters that I can set to in all three scenarios. That doesn’t happen often because it’s more difficult for hitters to adjust to the off sets if the pass isn’t there. However, I’ve found that throughout the season I can just set the ball in her general direction and be assured that she’ll do something with it, be it a power tip or kill.”

Not a single person in the bleachers is sitting back. Everybody is at the edge of their seats because the way she spikes, in so many words, looks perfect, effortless and even a little confusing. After watching her spike the ball, it’s safe to say that she makes it into a fine art. Rusek jumps so that her head can reach nine feet and eleven inches off the ground, and even though the girls on the other team flinch and even try to avoid the ball when she spikes, it doesn’t seem like she hits it hard at all.

The reason is simple. Olivia is a performer, not an overly aggressive and competitive athlete.

Her jersey says it all. She is number one.

She didn’t start playing volleyball on an actual team until she made Park View School’s team in sixth grade, and she didn’t start playing league until she was in eighth grade. Her limited volleyball experience surely didn’t stop her from being the first freshman to ever make it on the girls Varsity team at Niles West because the sport is in her blood.

Before she went to high school, her older sister, Nicole Rusek, played volleyball at West.  Before the two sisters played volleyball, their dad played back in Poland, too.

“I take volleyball and working out very seriously. I got that way because growing up in a volleyball family kind of put a little pressure on me to succeed,” Rusek said.
Outside of training six days a week during the school season, she trains three days a week for two hours.
“Volleyball means the world to me. I don’t know what I would do without it,” she said.

Besides being a highly dedicated all-conference athlete, there’s a lot more to her. If you really knew Olivia Rusek, then you would know that she loves eating greasy pizza, pasta and other carbs. You would know that she learned how to speak fluent Polish before she learned English, that her extreme phobias are other people’s feet and toes, that she can mimic dolphin noises, and that she’s a really good beat boxer (see audio at the end of the story). You would also know that she wants to join Polish Club and that she loves watching movies and trying different food. Most importantly, if you really knew Olivia Rusek, you would know that she has the perfect attitude towards almost anything.

“I’m really big on demonstrating good sportsmanship. Whenever we win a big game, I always tell the team to settle down and be good sports because I know much it sucks to be the losing team,” she said.

Varsity volleyball coach Stacy Metoyer couldn’t agree more.

“Olivia is not only an outstanding volleyball player, but she is a team player who cares a great deal about her team and their success. Olivia plays [volleyball] with integrity and excels in the classroom as well.  Olivia is a true student-athlete,” Metoyer said.

Over the summer, Olivia went to a three-week volleyball camp at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. On the final day of camp, the coach offered her a full scholarship in person.

“So many things were running through my mind, but when she told me, I was speechless,” Rusek said.  “Then she told me to talk it over with my parents when I got home. So I didn’t feel so much pressure to answer her on the spot on whether or not I would accept it or not, but I was ecstatic!”

On August 1, she verbally committed to the University and plans on signing her letter of intent before the end of November.

As for plans in the further future, she hopes to take advantage of the many opportunities to play professional volleyball for a European team. “If they discover me, I would definitely go play there,” Rusek said. She plans on majoring in business and possibly going into sports marketing if she doesn’t have a career in volleyball ahead of her.
Nevertheless, he’s keeping her options open.”It is definitely something I could see myself doing in the future,” she said.

With good grades, athletic talent, and an excellent personality, Rusek is destined for success.

“I’ve known Olivia for a long time. We played volleyball together up until freshman year, and we’ve been in the same school since we were in kindergarten. Not only has she grown as an athlete but she’s grown as a person. Her intelligence, her personality and her overall character really makes her a good role model,” junior Jayna Shah said.

Olivia still manages to stay humble.

“I show up to school every day and work just as hard as everyone else” Rusek said.