In her collegiate debut Sept. 1 at Valparaiso, Michigan
volleyball freshman Katie Bruzdzinski played like a savvy
But in the Manhattan College Invitational two days later, her
play returned to first-year level.
After her 14 kills and nine digs against the Crusaders,
Bruzdzinski struggled at the invitational, recording just three
kills and five digs in two matches.
Senior Jennifer Gandolph — her roommate for the tournament
— remembers Bruzdzinski being “really worked up and
stressed out” about her play in the match. Understanding her
frustration, Gandolph talked to her, telling her not to worry about
it — that it was just one match and she shouldn’t dwell
Bruzdzinski hasn’t looked back since.
“I think she’s really come back from that,”
Gandolph said. “Every day since then she’s been
Bruzdzinski got back on track at the Michigan/Pepsi Challenge
the following week, recording 13 kills and seven digs in her home
debut. Six days later, she broke a nine-year school record for
service aces with eight in the match.
But in the past two weeks, she emerged as a key contributor for
the Wolverines. Bruzdzinski has led Michigan in kills for the past
four matches — setting a career high of 20 against Illinois
last weekend — and is currently third on the team with 2.54
kills per game. She also leads the Big Ten in service aces,
averaging 0.46 per game.
Bruzdzinski’s steady improvement has not just helped her
teammates, it has also impressed them.
“You never know sometimes with first-year players, but
she’s been very consistent and someone we can rely on to get
kills,” Gandolph said. “And that’s huge for
someone to come in their first year and do that.”
Bruzdzinski already has the ability to contribute, but
it’s her work ethic that really sets her apart. In high
school, she competed for sports performance in West Chicago, Ill.
— a club that is known for producing disciplined and
hard-working players. Bruzdzinski said who drilled into her the
importance of not taking short cuts and always putting in that
extra effort. It’s a lesson she heard so many times that she
internalized it and carried it with her to Michigan.
“I’m always pushing myself because I know it will
pay off in the end,” Bruzdzinski said. “It
doesn’t matter if I feel like I’m going to die in
practice that day. If I’m dying in practice, I’ll be
good in the game. I know it’s just going to make me
Gandolph says that willingness to come into practice and work
hard everyday is something Michigan focuses a lot of attention on.
The fact that Bruzdzinski already had this mentality only
accelerated her improvement.
“It’s cool that we didn’t have to teach that
to her,” Gandolph said. “She already had it.”