After taking two years off from volleyball, freshman middle backer Joanna Stefanek has came to GCC to become not only one of the best players on the team, but one of the best in the conference.
When she is not playing volleyball, Stefanek is in the Air Force ROTC, which she goes to every Friday at UCLA. Her goal is to become a fighter pilot.
“It’s pretty hard,” Stefanek said. “I’ve been taking tests, and it’s getting harder and harder.”
The tests are physical and mental. One of the physical tests is running 2 miles under 15 minutes, 50 sit-ups in two minutes, and for the women, nine push-ups. The mental test was a Rorschach, or inkblot test, in which one interprets pictures in black ink.
“I’d never thought I would have to do something like that,” Stefanek said. “I didn’t see anything, and that is the right answer.”
After graduating from Immaculate Heart High School, Stefanek, 17, wanted to go to the Air Force Academy, but chose instead to go into the reserves. The reserves take four years to complete. During that time, she plans to get her degree in chemical engineering or business.
Stefanek first got started in volleyball in the sixth grade at her elementary school. She continued to play year-round in a club. In her junior and senior years at Immaculate Heart High School, she had to work to help her mother pay the bills.
“I didn’t know I was going to start to play volleyball again,” Stefanek said. “I tried out for the team at Pasadena [City College], and that’s where I met our coach, [who was then the coach at PCC] and she told me to go to Glendale.”
Going from high school volleyball to college volleyball was a change that Stefanek wasn’t prepared for. It was difficult for her coming from club volleyball to the team now because she has played with her club team since the sixth grade, and playing with new teammates was a big challenge.
“I had attitude in the beginning, and I couldn’t stand it,” Stefanek said. “I just had to learn to adapt to the way they [her new teammates] are. It took awhile, but we got through it.”
“Her attitude was a bit of a problem in the beginning,” said head coach Aimee Peinado. “She has really turned it around. She isn’t a captain, but she has very good leadership skills, and is considered a leader.”
“You’re here three to four hours a day, going through two hours of treatment everyday,” Stefanek said. ” I didn’t play for two years, so I didn’t expect it to be this hard.”
Through 19 matches, and 268 games, Stefanek is third in conference with 261 digs. A dig is when the other team spikes the ball onto the floor, and you have to slide on the floor, and hit it up. It is only considered a dig if the next person can get the ball over the net.
“I didn’t expect to be ranked at all,” Stefanek said. “When coach first told me I didn’t believe her. I’m so proud of myself. For me to have not played for two years and come back and be ranked.”
“She is one of our go-to hitters when we need to get the ball down on the other side,” Peinado said. “She plays strong defense, and digs everything in site. She is a very aggressive player.”