The California sun, sand and Beach Boys tunes represented volleyball for freshman Stesha Selsky during her childhood. That’s a far different scene from the fluorescent lighting, hardwood floors and Pat Benatar music found at Cliff Keen Arena in Ann Arbor.
When Selsky was a child, her mother, a professional volleyball player, formed a club team with her daughter. Because it was difficult to pay for practice time on a court, Selsky practiced on the beach.
Her defensive capabilities can be attributed to her years playing volleyball on the beach. The heavier ball, smaller court and the other variables one cannot find indoors — like wind and the sun — make the game much more difficult than the controlled six-on-six environment seen in high school gyms across America.
“I didn’t actually know people played indoors,” said Selsky of indoor volleyball. “That was new for me.”
The rest of the Big Ten is wishing she never found out.
Selsky is having an amazing freshman year, having recorded 237 digs so far this season — enough to place her among the top-three in school history for digs in a season among freshman.
But Michigan coach Mark Rosen is happy with the way Selsky has adjusted to the hardwood.
“She’s done a great job adapting to the speed of the game at this level,” Rosen said. “She’s adjusted really well.”
Selsky was recruited as a possible setter or back-row player, but has had to fill in at the libero position for the injured senior Sarah Allen — a tough spot for a freshman. Not only is Allen one of the team captains, but the position itself is difficult.
The libero is expected to be a stabilizing force and the spark plug for the defense, according to Rosen. A big defensive play, like a dig, can be all the momentum the team needs to change the course of a game.
Selsky has been able to step in flawlessly for the Wolverines. She tallied career highs for digs in consecutive games, notching 24 against Purdue on Nov. 6 and 30 against No. 5 Minnesota last weekend. It was the first time a Wolverine had recorded at least 30 digs in a game in four years.
“I didn’t even know I had 30 digs,” Selsky said. “No one really told me. I was just playing defense.”
As well as Selsky has done defensively, she still has to work on the offensive aspect of her game. To be a stabilizing force for the team, a libero must be able to control the ball and pass the ball well.
“There are new passing techniques that I’ve had to learn,” Selsky said. “I’m still working on that one actually.”
But as frustrating as it may get for the freshman at times, Selsky’s best technique for dealing with the frustration of learning something new is to just ignore it.
“If I think too much about it, then I’m absolutely horrible,” Selsky said.
Michigan is glad Selsky isn’t doing much thinking these days — the freshman is always focused on the task at hand and not worried about the technical aspects of her game.