Marist’s Lizzie Zaleski finds her calling at setter

Marist’s Lizzie Zaleski said her family would support her no matter what she chose to do in high school, even if it included band, drama or the chess club.

Not that there was any chance she would do something other than sports.

Zaleski’s older brother Alex played football and basketball at St. Rita. Her older sister Mary Ellen played volleyball and basketball at Marist. Her younger brother Tim plays football, basketball and baseball at St. Rita. Her grandfather, Jack Quinn, has been coaching football for more than 55 years.

“It’s mostly sports in our family,” Zaleski said in a classic bit of understatement.

“I went to volleyball camps when I was a little girl,” she said. “I played grammar school volleyball with four of the girls on Mother McAuley. I shadowed both McAuley and Marist, but Marist just seemed like a better fit for me.”

Zaleski played basketball and volleyball for two years at Marist before fully committing to volleyball. After playing right-side hitter and a little bit of back row during her previous three years, this year she was asked to set.

The results have been spectacular. She had 69 assists in three matches as Marist won the Silver Division of the Asics Challenge. She had 35 assists and six blocks in a 27-25, 22-25, 25-22 loss to Benet.

“Lizzie’s strong leadership skills and knowledge of the game made her the perfect candidate to step into the position of setter this year.” Marist coach Julie Popp-Hopkins said. “As a first-year setter, Lizzie worked very hard during the offseason and in practice to perfect this skill.

“Not only does she score points with blocks, she attacks the ball and always finds ways to put her hitters in the best situations to get the big kill. She’s a triple threat. Lizzie is a player any teammate would want on the floor with them. She gives 110 percent every time she steps on the court.”

Next year, Zaleski will continue her playing career at Valparaiso University, which has reached the NCAA Tournament three times and is one of only 10 programs nationally to have won at least 20 matches each of the last 12 years.

That kind of success and the opportunity to stay close to home so her family could see her play were what attracted Zaleski to the Indiana school.

“I’m really close to my family,” she said. “Having my grandparents and my family come to my games means a lot to me.”

Meanwhile, she is savoring her senior year at Marist.

“I want to take in my last year of high school volleyball and enjoy it,” she said. “I also want to be that leader on the court and have all my teammates look to me.”

Most already do.

“Lizzie exemplifies the term ‘student-athlete,’ ” Popp-Hopkins said. “She is a wonderful role model for younger players.”

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