In conjunction with the Dinos' 40th anniversary, the Gauntlet is profiling influential athletes from five decades of Dinos history.
The last seven years has been a significant time for sports at the University of Calgary. In the volleyball world, several athletes have emerged as star players. Among these is Dino Joanna Niemczewska.
Niemczewska became a shining star in the world of Dinos volleyball, competing in four consecutive Canadian Interuniversity Sport championships, winning a gold, silver and bronze medal during that time. In addition, she was a first-team Canada West all-star, first-team all-Canadian, and Canada West and CIS player-of-the-year in both 2004 and 2005. The CIS player of the year honors were accompanied by the BLG award in 2004.
In the 2006/07 season, Niemczewska averaged 3.54 kills per game and had a kill efficiency of 22.6 per cent, recording 276 kills. This record had her standing in second place in Canada West.
The volleyballer extraordinaire considers her university volleyball career, coming to a close this year, as a great time in her life.
"I think the greatest thing I got out of my time here were the friends," said Niemczewska. "I was so lucky to be with a great group of people the whole time and the relationships were just so good."
Niemczewska went through a rough patch during the 2005/06 season after suffering a crippling knee injury.
"I wasn't coping well at first," Niemczewska said. "At first, they said I'd be out for a few weeks, which turned into three months. Six months later, I was still feeling horrible and it was just really frustrating. I had planned school around playing and then all my plans were changed. I found that really hard to cope with. I had really good support though. My family and friends were there for me through it."
She rebounded and came back with a bang in her final season in 2006/07.
After juggling her sport, school and life for five years, Niemsczewska has gained a healthy perspective on balancing priorities.
"Try not to do everything and take in everything," she said. "I think that I learned to balance things really well. You always want to put the sport first, because that's what you're there for, but you don't want to sacrifice your life and the university experience."