The spring semester just started and Steven Zarzycki, freshman accounting major and member of the Kean University men's volleyball team, has just been named Skyline Conference Rookie of the Week for the week of Monday, January 23, 2017.
"I was pretty ecstatic. At first, my teammates told me and I didn't believe it, but then I looked on my phone and saw that it was true. It felt very rewarding," Zarzycki stated. "I sent the picture to my family and they seemed to be more excited than I even was!"
Zarzycki started playing organized volleyball during seventh grade. Prior to that, he started playing baseball at age seven and played basketball in elementary school. Sports was always a big part of his life growing up. Although volleyball was the last sport he picked up, it gave him a different feel compared to the other sports.
His dad was a collegiate athlete and told Zarzycki what it would take to be one, as he wanted the same experience for his son. His parents never missed a game while he was in high school, and they were very supportive of him choosing to play volleyball in college.
Being around sports his entire life, a lot of the friendships he built were through the teams he played on. In high school, he got some of his teammates from the basketball team to join the volleyball team.
"It's very fast paced, requires a lot of hand-eye coordination, and it was just the perfect fit for me," he said. "Sophomore year of high school I decided to start focusing on volleyball more because my body was made out for it, and it was the best of my two sports at the time."
Zarzycki is the outside hitter for the men's volleyball team on campus. His hit put the Kean University Cougars in the lead during their match against the New Jersey Institute of Technology on Friday, January 20, 2017. Overall, Zarzycki has started four out of the team's six matches after making his collegiate debut.
Although he hates having to go up for a block and hitting it out of bounds, he loves the moments he gets a kill from a spike or dump. With that said, he has never thought of giving up volleyball. He may have more experience playing other sports, but his favorite moments come from playing volleyball.
"My best memory was flying down to Iowa for 10 days and playing for the U.S. Continental team with players from all over the country," Zarzycki recalled. "But, so far my experience [at Kean University] has been one to remember. Each day I learn new things and face new challenges. In upcoming semesters, I look forward to the higher level of academics and pursuing more classes in my major."
Zarzycki chose to play here because he felt Kean University had built a strong reputation for itself as a volleyball program, and he wanted to be a part of it.
"The guys on the team are like my brothers, and I could tell it would be that way when I came down to visit," he said. "My parents definitely helped me take this path at Kean [University]. When we first visited, they told me how they loved the campus and that my volleyball talent would be of no waste here. When I officially told them I had made up my mind to come here, they were very pleased with my decision and backed it up 100 percent."
In the future, Zarzycki wants to play all four years at Kean University. Afterwards, he thinks playing a year or two professionally overseas would be cool, but he would like to focus on getting better before he gets that far.
"You can never be too good [in a sport]. There is always work to be done and improvements to make," Zarzycki said. "Although you may be the best in your area, there's still a new level of competition of other people who were the best in their area too."
After graduation, Zarzycki plans to become a certified public accountant and live in upstate New York, closer to his home in Rochester.