Chatham, NJ (Anthony Caruso III for www.njsi.net): Marika Racibarskas, a Senior Chatham Volleyball player, recently took time to do an interview with njsi.net. Her Q & A feature interview is about her playing career.
njsi.net: You have been attending volleyball summer camps at such a young age. What advantages may a player gain later on in high school and college from attending camps so young?
Marika Racibarskas: “At camps, I received input from so many different coaches with different coaching styles. This gave me the chance to learn different ways to play the game and to figure out what works best for me.”
njsi.net: You were a PrepVolleyball.com High School All-American. Do you feel any added pressure on your playing abilities after receiving that award?
Marika: “There will always be pressure after receiving recognition. But receiving this award motivated me to work even harder to reach the next level.”
njsi.net: You were a Finalist for the National High School Junior of the Year. Did you win the award? And what does it mean to you to be recognized on such a national level?
Marika: “No (she didn’t win the award). It is a great honor to be recognized along with the other players that were considered for this award.”
njsi.net: Could you talk about being the New Jersey Gatorade Player of the Year runner-up?
Marika: “This was a very special award for me, because Amanda Alles, the New Jersey Gatorade Player of the Year, has been a teammate of mine at Atlantic Valley Volleyball Club (AVVC). And she is also a very good friend of mine.”
njsi.net: You were the MVP of the Morris County volleyball Tournament. What did that mean to you?
Marika: “Coming back from an injury and being part of the team that finally beat the seven-time MCT Champion, West Morris Central, was an unbelievable experience for me. I can’t even begin to describe the emotion that came along with our team’s victory.”
njsi.net: You helped your team to a New Jersey State Championship during your sophomore year and junior years. What was that moment like for you and your school?
Marika: “My older sister Katrina was on the team with me. Unfortunately, we were defeated but the next year we know what to expect in that game and we faced the same team, Demarest, in the finals once again. The final went three games and once it was over, a wave of emotion rushed through my body and I could not stop crying tears of joy. This was a moment I will never forget for the rest of my life. Not many high school athletes can call themselves State Champions. We were the first Morris County team to win a State Final. We had so many loyal fans that followed our success throughout the season. As a tradition in my town, the fire department escorts the Champions through the downtown area, with lights flashing and sirens blaring. We also got to ride on an antique fire truck through the town and back to school.”
njsi.net: You could have nearly 1,500 career assists at the high school level — she has had 1,149 assists during the past two seasons — before you end this season. Could you talk about that accomplishment?
Marika: “In volleyball, it all starts with a great pass. I have been fortunate to have great defensive players on my team. After the ball is set, it takes great hitters to make a kill, so the setter can get the assist. Chatham’s hitters have been among the state’s best.”
njsi.net: You are entering into your final year of high school — and your final year of playing high school volleyball. What are you going to miss about it?
Marika: “There is something very special about being a high school athlete. I am lucky to live in a town that supports their athletic teams better than any other town in the State. We have had great and enthusiastic fans and that has made playing even more fun. One of the great things about high school volleyball is that I get the chance to play against my AVVC club teammates and their school teams. These matches are always the most exciting for me, knowing that in a few months, we will all be on the same side of the court. This year, I also have a chance to be a mentor to the younger players on our high school team and that is something I really cherish and will miss once I go off to college.”
njsi.net: You are a member of the NCSA, a national recruiting firm that helps high school athletes find the right college. Could you talk about their role in helping you select Penn State?
Marika: “NCSA provided a great service to me and my family, because they encouraged me to keep an open-mind about where I could play. They helped me learn how to talk to coaches and to seek out what really matters in a school and in a college volleyball program. They created a lot of structure by requiring me to complete monthly correspondence logs and this helped me to stay organized. For the schools that were not a good match, NCSA encouraged me to let them know as early as possible, so that they could focus their attention (to) other players.”
njsi.net: Penn State has such a rich tradition in terms of their volleyball teams — and they even won a National Championship last year with both the men’s and women’s volleyball teams. How do you think your game will fit in with their style of play?
Marika: “I have attended Penn State’s Volleyball Express Camp for two summers. Each night after our required sessions at camp were over, I had the chance, along with other campers and recruits, to play with and against the Penn State players. I felt a really good chemistry with the Penn State players and their style of play and feel that their pace of play is one that I could contribute to and would enjoy. I am a very physical and competitive player, as well as an extremely hard worker, who loves conditioning and going to practice. These are all characteristics that I share with the girls on the Penn State team.”
njsi.net: Linda Dolansky is your head coach. What makes her such a good coach?
Marika: “Coach recently graduated from St. Francis (PA) where she played volleyball. She has played every single position on the court and she knows how (to) bring the best out of each of her players. She is very positive and supportive and always wants what is best for the team. We can connect with her easily, because she has just experienced what we are going through right now, in terms of improving our skills and becoming better players.”
njsi.net: Casey Read is your teammate and another Player of Watch, besides yourself. What makes her such a good player?
Marika: “Casey’s athleticism and energy is a great asset to any team she plays on. She can always find a way to pump up our team if we are ever down. She laughs easily and can make others laugh as well. Casey trains hard all year round to become a stronger and better player and that is one of the many things that I love about her. We have a very good chemistry and I always count on her to terminate any set I give her.”
njsi.net: Chatham volleyball is one of the top teams in Morris County. What makes them so good?
Marika: “Our team chemistry is very strong. We get along well on an off-the-court. A lot (of) my teammates play club volleyball. We are all very competitive and like to work hard to achieve our goals.”