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Polish hammer

Tekiel supplies power for No. 7 Hawks

Tekiel supplies power for No. 7 Hawks

September 22, 2007|DAN KAUFFMAN

As fans make their way into HCC's athletic complex for a volleyball match, they are given a sheet with the Hawks' roster. As usual, it includes plenty of players who graduated from Washington County schools - Boonsboro, Clear Spring, North Hagerstown and Williamsport.

Then, toward the bottom, something unusual: Magda Tekiel, 6-foot-1, outside hitter, freshman, Warsaw, Poland.

Curiosity is quickly replaced by awe the moment Tekiel hits one of the blistering kills she's becoming known for.

Kills that hit the court so hard and so fast, they bounce more than 10 feet in the air.

Kills that bounce off of opposing blocks and back over her teammates' heads, landing well past HCC's own back line.

"She's the most physical player I've had," Hawks coach Beth Domenico said Monday. "She's very strong, and she's the first hitter we've had that's a true go-to hitter, where when it goes to her, you know she's putting it down."

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How did Tekiel arrive at HCC? Hawks assistant coach Ty Hart knows American University coach Barry Goldberg, who was interested in recruiting Tekiel to his NCAA Division I program but did not have a spot available. Enter the Hawks, who are giving Tekiel a place to play in the interim.

Tekiel first arrived in the United States a little more than a month ago, armed with a decent grasp of English and nine years of experience in Poland's club volleyball system. She's had few issues adjusting to life thousands of miles away from home - "I saw America on TV, that's all I knew," she said. "There's a little bit of cultural difference, but not so much."

Her adjustment to HCC's style of play has been equally smooth, to the relief of Hawks coach Beth Domenico.

"I was really worried about how the girls would handle it, but they've taken her in," Domenico said. "She fits in with them and they look up to her and enjoy playing with her."

"The girls here are wonderful," Tekiel said. "They play with a lot of heart. It's more about team play here. In Poland, it's more about individuals."

While the Hawks' focus may be on the team, Tekiel has managed to stand out. Through Wednesday, she led NJCAA Division II in kills per game (4.96) and ranked seventh in hitting efficiency (51.9 percent).

"She never makes a mistake," said sophomore Caitlyn Selby, also an outside hitter. "She can slam the ball, but she can also tip it. She has perfect timing and reads the court so well. Her smarts are what makes her so tough."

Tekiel's arrival on campus has been a blessing for both herself and her teammates. For one, having an international player with the experience and ability Tekiel has forces the rest of the Hawks to elevate their play if they want to play alongside her.

"It makes each one of us a better player," Selby said. "I know I have to work my butt off if I want to play."

Meanwhile, Tekiel's laid-back style - "She was almost too laid-back, almost lethargic," said Domenico - gets a regular jolt of enthusiasm from a team full of players who have never lacked passion, such as Kim Snavely and Sammi Snodderly.

"Having those types of players on the team has changed her demeanor," Domenico said. "One of my favorite things is, after Magda puts one down, watching her and Kimmy celebrate together. Our shortest player and our tallest player, arms in the air, and Magda's arms are a foot higher."

Tekiel hopes to be a part of much grander celebrations later this season.

"I want to support this team and go with this team to nationals," she said. "I'm really glad to be here."

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