Written by Declan Landis
As the ball floated toward her, sophomore setter Patrycja Zielinska, a Polish native, was poised as she set the ball for her first collegiate assist last season against Rider, helping Temple win 3-2.
Zielinska felt no nerves in her first game at McGongile Hall as fans cheered her on. For Zielinska, the transition to American volleyball was pretty seamless.
“You just play, whether you’re in America or in Poland,” said Zielinska. “Since I’m a setter and I touch every ball, I got used to it. There are always nerves, but I am never stressed.”
Zielinska overcame long odds to play volleyball at Temple, although a serious knee injury almost ended her career. Zielinska’s passion helped her stay positive as she returned to the court.
Zielinska has emerged as an important player on Temple’s roster. Last season, she started 28 games for the program and finished with 879 assists, which finished second amongst freshmen in the American Athletic Conference in 2021.
Her road to becoming a key player, however, was not easily executed.
Zielinska joined the sport at ten years old. She was introduced to volleyball in her gym class during primary school. Her coach, Renata Lapa, was the first person to see her long-term potential.
“[Lapa] saw me in PE class and said that I was pretty athletic,” said Zielinska. “I started attending the volleyball class. We had like ten hours per week for PE classes just for volleyball. That’s when all of it started.”
Six years later, Zielinska underwent major Patellar Tendon instability-related surgery. Her doctor told her that his patients had never played sports after similar procedures.
Zielinska refused to give up because she loved the sport.
“I can’t imagine living without volleyball,” said Zielinska. “Even in the future when I will be old and my joints and muscles will not let me play, I will still be watching. It’s a part of me, and it will stay with me.”
Zielinska’s strength improved with daily isometric exercises. Despite thinking about giving up at times, she returned to full strength after six months. She quickly got back on the court and was noticed by college scouts. Zielinska joined a recruiting agency that reached out to college programs. Eventually, she received her first offer from Temple and signed with the program Nov. 13, 2020.
“It was the first program I found out about, and I loved it,” said Zielinska. “I love the academics, the big city, the program because it’s on such a high-level. It was love at first sight.”
Zielinska has succeeded with the Owls in every role. With the transition between head coaches and a lot of young players on the roster, she has tried to step up and lead by example through her confidence and play.
“She is really good at location, especially with a ball,” said redshirt-senior right side hitter Peyton Boyd. “She’s really good at checking out how we feel about her sets. She’ll be like, ‘Hey, what do you want me to do differently?’ I really appreciate how willing and open to communicating she is.”
Zielinska and her teammates have already improved vastly this year. As they continue through their season, Zielinska only has one goal in mind: continue to fight through it all.
“We want to be recognized as the team that fights to the end,”said Zielinska. “I want my team to be the kind of team that fights and never gives up.”
Leading by example, Zielinska hasn’t given up through her journey and shows no signs of stopping now.