Women's Tennis |
March 25, 2009
By MARK SCHMETZER
Valeriya Dandik loves to travel. Her family moved quite a bit while she was growing up, from the Ukraine -- where she was born -- to Israel to the Netherlands to Colombia to Canada.
Dandik herself started her college tennis career at the University of Missouri before transferring to the University of Cincinnati. She hopes to indulge her travel bug after graduating in June with a bachelor's degree in international business.
But there's a trip she's particularly interested in making before she graduates. The Bearcat senior hopes to lead UC to Tampa, Fla., in mid-April for the BIG EAST Conference championship tournament.
"I think, as team goals go, that's the biggest one -- getting into the conference tournament," Dandik said. "We didn't last year. I think that would be a stepping stone for the next few years, as well as establishing ourselves in the BIG EAST."
If UC expects to make that leap, then Dandik will have to play a significant role.
First-year Bearcats coach Angela Wilson is leaning heavily on her multi-talented senior, who often will play singles and doubles in the same match.
"She's definitely going to be one of our top three players," Wilson said. "We need her to be in the top three in the lineup."
Wilson considers the 5-foot-7 Dandik's power to be her primary weapon.
"She can stand in the middle of the court and blast the ball to any corner, particularly on her forehand," the coach said. "She has a great forehand -- really powerful. She can really hit it from anywhere. She hits the ball a ton. She's also got a strong serve that she can place. Those are her two main weapons."
Wilson also appreciates the leadership Dandik displays, which the coach believes sets a good example for her youthful team. Dandik is one of just three seniors on the nine-player roster, which also includes four freshmen and two sophomores, and she serves as the tennis team's representative on a student-athlete advisory committee.
"I don't just represent the tennis team," she said. "I'm the secretary. That's the kind of leadership role I want to take on campus. I want to get involved as an athlete and as a student. It's a good way to meet people.
"I would say my role on the team is to help out the incoming freshmen, since we have four of them -- just kind of help them with the day-to-day things, like how to deal with juggling classes and tennis. I just took on the role of helping them settle in."
"She's pretty calm on the court," Wilson said. "Nothing upsets her too much. You can't tell whether she's winning or losing, and that's good. Younger girls can get a little emotional, and you definitely need seniors to be leaders -- to work hard, on and off the court. She's got all of the qualities you want in a student-athlete. When you get those freshmen coming in, you need leadership in all areas, not just on the court."
Dandik will be doing double duty despite having undergone ankle surgery last spring, which limited her activity during UC's fall schedule.
"She did a lot of rehab over the summer," said Wilson. "One of the first things you could see right away is that she's a great athlete, but she had a limited fall -- not much singles, mostly doubles. She was still getting back into the movement part. We didn't want to do anything in the fall to jeopardize the main season. We didn't want to jeopardize the singles part. She and I had a conversation. I told her, `We're really going to need you when we start the main season.' We worked out a schedule that didn't push her too hard."
"She still needs to work on that first step, exploding to the ball," Wilson added. "I think that will improve as she gets more confident. She just lacks a little confidence."
Singles and doubles pose different -- but equal -- problems with Dandik's ankle.
"Both require my 100 percent on the court," she said. "Hopefully, it won't be much of a problem."
Dandik, who speaks English, Ukrainian, French, Russian and Spanish, already has started job interviews.
"Eventually, I'm real interested in working for some type of a world trade organization or for the United Nations -- some type of organization that is involved all over the world," she said.
"She has a lot of skill sets to be successful," Wilson said.
(This story was previously printed in the Bearcat Sports Digest.)