Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake rising junior Carlie Rzeszotarski is different than most high school volleyball players in New York because of her size and ability to hit, serve and defend at such an elite level.
In another way, she’s just like all the rest, on hold due to coronavirus mandates and itching for action.
“Every volleyball player in the state would give anything to be on a court with their friends and teammates, and playing the game they love,” Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake girls’ volleyball coach Gary Bynon said. “The kids want to play.”
Rzeszotarski and others in the Lakeside Volleyball Club will finally get a chance to hit, pass and dig next week, though playing games is still a long way off. They’ll work out in small groups with a focus on individual drills, and for now, that’s enough for the much-decorated 6-foot-1 outside hitter who last fall led the Spartans to a state championship.
“That’s going to be amazing to get back on the court. I’m looking forward to that,” said Rzeszotarski, who first got involved in the sport as a third-grader. “I can’t remember the last time I went so long without playing.”
Rzeszotarski last played in early March in a tournament in Boston with her Lakeside teammates. She last played scholastically in late November, collecting 19 kills and 13 digs when Burnt Hills swept West Irondequoit for the state Class A crown and tied a team record with 31 wins.
Rzeszotarski was named the state tournament’s most valuable player. Afterward, she was selected to the Class A all-state first team by the New York Volleyball Coaches Association and was tabbed New York’s Player of the Year by PrepVolleyball.com.
“You can talk about the state [tournament] MVP and all of the accolades she has received, but Carlie legitimately cares about everyone on that team,” Bynon said of the 16-year-old. “If the team is successful and she gets to celebrate with them, that’s what she’s all about.”
Rzeszotarski is hoping to celebrate again with her Burnt Hills team in a fall season that is right now full of uncertainty. The Spartans celebrated often in the 2019 campaign which included league, Section II and regional titles before they snared the program’s seventh New York flag.
“I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we have a normal season, or at least as normal as it can be,” Rzeszotarski said. “I can’t see how it would be canceled.”
The New York State Public High School Athletic Association has been planning the best it can for a fall season while not knowing what lies ahead in the coronavirus environment. The NYSPHSAA’s COVID-19 Task Force focused on many what-if scenarios and contingency plans at its virtual meeting Tuesday.
“I’m glad we’re looking for a way,” Bynon said. “A group of us volleyball coaches put together 12 or 13 guidelines we thought would help with that. Number one, we have kids’ safety in mind. At the same time, we understand how beneficial it can be for the kids.”
Rzeszotarski has gotten a lot out of the game, and she is all but certain to get even more in the form of a Division I college ride. She has been contacted by UAlbany and Siena locally, as well as by Duke, Dartmouth, Colgate, Army West Point, Dayton, Lehigh, DePaul, Kent State, Fairfield, Rider, Bryant, Rhode Island, Canisius and Holy Cross.
“When Duke calls you on the first day they can, it’s not a bad thing,” Bynon said.
June 15 was the date college coaches in most sports could start reaching out directly to recruits who will be entering their junior year in high school.
“Coach Bynon gave me a few names that would be calling, and a few reached out that I didn’t expect, like West Point,” Rzeszotarski said. “I had 16 calls that week. Coach Bynon said only a few other players got this much contact.”
Bynon said Rzeszotarski has drawn the attention of so many colleges because of her academic standing (she averaged 97.4 as a sophomore), leadership traits, ability to do so many things well on the court and penchant for stepping up in the biggest matches.
“She enjoys that stage,” Bynon said of the PrepVolleyball.com National Sophomore of the Year finalist. “When she hits that stage, she responds. That doesn’t happen with everyone.”