Lindsey Zawisa didn’t play much defense her freshman season at Galway, and although she pounded the ball hard, it was often without aim.
So much changed from one year to the next for the rising outside hitter, and for the Eagles’ fortunes, too.
“It’s crazy,” the 15-year-old said of Galway’s run to the state Class C semifinals and her personal growth that helped the Eagles get there. “I still can’t believe it.”
Zawisa went from a good player as a ninth-grader to an all-state first-team selection as a 10th-grader, and this past week she picked up another prestigious honor by being named to the PrepVolleyball.com Soph 79 highest honorable-mention list.
She piled up 458 kills and 341 defensive digs for a Galway team that before the 2016 season had never had success at the state level.
“She came on really fast,” first-year Galway volleyball coach Mike Glenn said. “She was very weak on defense and only played the front row as a freshman. They rotated her out. I told her, ‘If you’re going to play for me, you’re going to play all the way around.’ ”
So Zawisa did, and when Galway outlasted Voorheesville in a five-set Section II championship match, she was among the defensive standouts with 26 digs.
“Defense is not easy,” Zawisa, who picked up the game when she was 11 years old, said. “It’s one of the hardest things to play in volleyball. You’ve got to read shoulders and see how they’re hitting it, and then there’s keeping the ball alive. Coach pushed me as hard as I could go.
“That’s one of his main things,” she added. “If you don’t play good defense, you’re not going to be a good team.”
Glenn also stressed the importance of ball placement on kill attempts, and Zawisa bought in to that, as well.
“All she cared about was hitting the ball as hard as she could instead of playing smart,” Glenn said. “She became so much smarter as we went along. She was placing t, going down the line, going across.”
Zawisa had 12 kills to go with her 26 digs in the Voorheesville match, and followed up with eight kills and 15 digs when Galway swept Northeastern Clinton for the first regional victory in program history. Galway went 1-5 in the state semifinals against East Rockaway, Eden and Pawling, with the 5-foot-9 all-tournament team member collecting 29 kills and 28 digs in the six sets.
“Toward the end of the year, she stepped up and was a strong leader,” Glenn said of the Western Athletic Conference’s West Division co-most valuable hitter. “She thought because she was a sophomore the juniors and seniors wouldn’t respond. Toward the end of the year, they looked to her.”
Glenn said he never saw a year like Galway had coming. The Eagles went 20-1 with a roster that included three seniors, and among them, only middle hitter Britany Kenyon started. Kenyon was flanked by another sophomore — outside hitter in Emma Smith.
“I was hoping we’d be around .500,” Glenn said. “When we opened the season at the Broadalbin-Perth tournament, we didn’t look that great. We made mistakes. We were very young. The girls worked harder and harder, and what they accomplished was pretty big.”
Galway took some pool-play hits along the way while competing against teams from larger schools in a handful of regular season tournaments.
“We played Class AA and Class A schools, and that made us better as a team,” Zawisa said. “Seeing those teams prepared us for when we played Class C teams.”
Galway won WAC division and tournament titles before claiming its third Section II championship. Galway also secured championships in 2014 (Class D) and 1998 (Class CC). In 2015, Galway didn’t qualify for the sectionals.
“One day in practice, coach had us line up and look at the [sectional] banners,” Zawisa said. “He said, ‘If you want to be up there, you’ve got to fight for it.’ ”
Zawisa added 10 service points and three aces when Galway beat Voorheesville. She finished the season with 123 aces as well as 33 blocks.
“Lindsey is one of the hardest workers I have coached, which is shown by her awards, accolades and statistics,” Glenn said.
PrepVolleyball.com recognized 586 sophomores from across the nation on its six Soph 79 lists. Zawisa is among a group of 79 athletes who made the second tier.
“In club, we have some great players and I still get rotated out for defense,” Zawisa, who plays for the Albany-based Northeast Thunder, said. “I’ve got to keep working at it.”
In February, Hannah Shell of state Class A semifinalist Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake made the PrepVolleyball.com Frosh 59 list as a first-team choice.