Headed into the senior All-Star volleyball game this past November, Kaya Ziskay had more on the line than just a win.
Coming off a standout season in which she collected First-Team All-Conference honors, the Indian River High School senior captain had drawn her fair share of attention from college coaches. But in the stands that day sat the one she wanted to impress the most: Wesley College head coach Lindsay Miller.
After the game, however, Miller gave Ziskay some news she may not have been expecting.
“She said she didn’t like [my playstyle],” said Ziskay. “She wanted to see my hands open. Even my [high school] coaches always said that my passing style is very unorthodox — it’s not normal, but it works.”
Not to be deterred, Ziskay continued to stay active in the recruitment process, turning down offers from other schools while still making sure to keep tabs on Wesley.
It wasn’t until months later that she discovered that a position for the Wolverines was still open and, through her persistence, Miller decided to give her another look.
That chance would come in the way of an unofficial tryout with the team at DelTech.
“I was so nervous. I broke out and everything — it was only right before prom,” Ziskay said, with a laugh. “I even got there super-early.”
That unease didn’t much fade when Miller approached her after the practice.
“At the end of the practice, she came up to me, and she didn’t look very happy. I almost started crying,” Ziskay recalled. “But she said, ‘Anything that I don’t like about you is fixable, and I mean that in the best way.’”
Despite the conflicting look, Ziskay got her spot on the team and will get to work this off-season before heading up to Wesley in the fall.
“She deserves this,” said IR head coach Jim Barnes. “She’s a great overall person that just did all the right things at practice and at games. I’m happy for her, and I’m happy for Wesley. They’re gonna get a player that loves volleyball.”
The first volleyball player from IR to make it to the NCAA in recent memory, Ziskay leads what Barnes sees as a new movement in the sport — not just at the school, but throughout lower Sussex County.
“This is just the beginning,” he said. “Great things are happening. I’m hoping the same thing is gonna happen in the future. It’s just the growth of the program — it’s a super-exciting time for volleyball. We have so many great opportunities for these girls now.”
As for Ziskay, she’s ready to get to work and battle for a starting position in the lineup, which Miller informed her would be up for grabs.
“When she said that, I was like, ‘OK — I can do it. I can be on the starting team.’ That’s what I’m hoping for,” she said. “I know there’s gonna be more work, but I’m excited.”