As Rebecka Poljan prepares for practice, the volleyball court isn’t the one her seven-year-old self envisioned she’d be stepping on to.
“Actually, when I was younger, I wanted to play basketball here,” said the Michigan State sophomore with a smile. “I was like this little spunky seven-year-old, shooting buckets in my driveway, and I always wanted to come here. Then go to the WNBA after, but as I got into high school I got good at volleyball all of the sudden.”
They say if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans, and he certainly had a different path planned for the 6-foot-2 Lansing Catholic alum who has all of the natural abilities to be a great middle blocker. Just ask MSU’s volleyball coach Cathy George.
“She wasn’t maybe on the national scene as much and we just thought she was a tremendous athlete who had this great character,” said George. “She was going to work her tale off to become what she can become. She’s very fast. I mean her feet are fast. Her arm is fast. She’s just extremely quick and she can beat her opponent with her feet.”
Wearing the Green and White wasn’t something Poljan was sure she could even do, coming out of high school. She questioned whether or not she’d be able to play Division I volleyball, let alone for one of the best conferences in the country, but over the last year and a half George has taught her to be a student of the game.
“My volleyball IQ was very, very low coming into this,” added Poljan. “She’s always saying, ‘You’re a tremendous athlete, but you need to learn how to be a volleyball player.’ She sits me down and watches film. She really breaks down things. Why would you do this?”
Like anything in life, the more you prepare, the more success you have, and Poljan is finding a newfound confidence that she didn’t know she had a year ago.
“The concepts are starting to come together a little bit and this has been a year and a half in the process of getting her there,” said George. “So you’re seeing great performances but that comes from a lot of work. All the things that seem smooth, and easy right now, were actually well thought through. It’s just getting simpler and simpler for Becca as she plays, and she starts to read situations, and understand what she can and can not do.”
“I’ve always had people tell me, this is what you need to do,” added Poljan. “This is where you need to be, and her big point is you need to be able to make those decisions for yourself. I’m not the one out there calling that for you. So it clicked a little bit, and then a little bit more as we got into Big Ten play last year and this year it’s making so much more sense.”
You could argue it’s why she’s hitting an impressive .367 and averaging 1.26 blocks per game. Both of which rank in the top 10 in the Big Ten Conference.
“So the middle blocker, it’s all about reading and staying patient,” said Poljan. “You’re the farthest one away from each block, but then you’re the first person up, so having the confidence to be able to execute in the moment with such little time…. the confidence is the biggest piece because you can’t second guess yourself. Otherwise you’re late.”