The numbers definitely tell the story when it comes to the impact freshman outside hitter Danielle Dahle has had for the UC San Diego Women's Volleyball team in 2012. Her 290 kills are 87 more than the next best on the squad, she has a team best 232 digs, is second in service aces with 19 and third with 40 total blocks. The level of production from the 6-foot-1 La Mesa product has been somewhat of a surprise, even to Head Coach Ricci Luyties. "I thought Danielle would be good, but I didn't foresee her being our top outside hitter," says Luyties, a1988 Olympic gold medalist now in his third year at the reins of the UCSD program. "She's really a solid all-around player. I've been impressed with her hitting, particularly the fact that she makes few errors and hits well out of the back row. But the first thing that caught my eye was her ball control. For someone that tall, she passes well and plays excellent defense." Heading into the final third of the regular season with both CCAA Championship and NCAA Playoff berths still possible, Dahle spent time talking about the season-to-date, her transition from high school to college and what it's like playing for Coach Ricci Luyties.
Q-A year ago at this time, what was your expectation as far as where you would be playing collegiate volleyball and what type of role you might be playing?
DAHLE-I committed around this time last year, so I knew I would be coming to UCSD. I knew there would be an opportunity for me to play, but I didn't anticipate being such a big part of our offense.
Q-From your perspective, how much has reality differed from that expectation?
DAHLE-Reality has turned out so much better than I could have imagined. I'm having a great time here.
Q-Was there a time during pre-season training where you felt "I belong here and can have an impact this season?"
DAHLE-Yes. From the beginning, I knew I was at the right school and I knew if I worked hard I could make an impact.
Q-What's the biggest difference between high school/club and collegiate volleyball?
DAHLE-Collegiate volleyball requires so much more time. More hours of practice, video watching, and playing means I have to manage my time better.
Q-What have you enjoyed most about being on the UC San Diego Women's Volleyball team?
DAHLE-I love my team. Whether it's playing in the gym or hanging out outside of volleyball, we always have a great time.
Q-With UCSD's fall quarter starting later than most other schools, was there a big adjustment when classes did start in late September?
DAHLE-Yes, I found myself with no free time. I am either at practice, or doing homework. There isn't much time for anything else!
Q-Overall, you're part of a very young team at UCSD. What is the leadership dynamic like and as a starter, do you feel like you need to contribute in that area?
DAHLE-Though I'm on the court a majority of the time, I don't feel the need to step up and be a leader. I encourage my team, but leave the leadership role to the older girls.
Q-The team is 15-6 overall, second in the CCAA and now ranked 24th nationally. Having been through the conference once now, how do you feel your team compares to the rest of the CCAA?
DAHLE-I think we are only getting better as season progresses. Our conference is very competitive, but we are capable of beating anybody. If we play well, we have a good chance of coming out on top.
Q-Since the start of conference play to today, how much has the team improved and how much more improvement do you think is possible?
DAHLE-I think we have improved greatly. Being a young team, it takes time for all of us to get used to playing together, and for our offense to connect. But we have been doing those things and will continue to see success if and when we work hard.
Q-What was the best piece of advice one of your veteran teammates has given you?
DAHLE-The best advice a teammate has given me is to manage my time well. The last thing I want to do is get behind in school or practice.
Q-As a coach, what, in your mind are Ricci Luyties greatest attributes?
DAHLE-Coach Luyties has so much knowledge. From playing at such a high level, he knows so much about the game and I know I will always get better by asking him about my playing or what I can do to get better. He also has a lot of confidence in all of us. During the game, he stays calm and helps us get out of bad rotations.
Q-How is Coach Luyties different from previous coaches you've played for?
DAHLE-He is very similar to my latest club coach. Both coaches know so much about the game and have similar coaching styles so it was an easy transition for me.
Q-How long have you been playing volleyball? What skill was the most difficult to master?
DAHLE-I have been playing volleyball since my freshman year in high school. The most difficult skill for me is defense; reading what the hitter is doing to guess where the ball is going.
Q-You also played three years of varsity basketball at Grossmont. What kind of game did you have?
DAHLE-I had a great time playing basketball in high school. I grew up playing it, and love the sport so I was glad I could play both sports for as long as possible.
Q-You're from nearby La Mesa. What led you to select UCSD and what are the benefits, if any, of playing close to home?
DAHLE-I grew up here knowing how great of a city La Jolla is. And I love the beach. So to find a school that was in a great city and close to the ocean was a big motivator. Being close to home is so convenient. I get to visit my family a lot and they are able to come watch me play.
Q--If someone were to visit La Mesa, what's the one thing they should see or do?
DAHLE-I would recommend going up to the top of Mount Helix. It has a great view from Mexico to the north county beaches.
Q-You've got 24 hours of free time and can do anything non-sports related. What's on the agenda?
Q-What can't you get through the day without?
DAHLE-Coffee. I have a serious caffeine addiction.
Q-When the NCAA Division II Volleyball Regionals start Nov. 29, will UCSD be in the field? Why?DAHLE-Yes! We have worked hard all season and are getting better every day. At the end of this season, we should see some of our best playing.
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