More than 4,000 miles from home, 16-year-old freshman Darya Dziatchuk is the starting setter for Tyler Junior College’s Lady Apache volleyball team.
Dziatchuk came to the United States for her first time just one month ago from Belarus, a small country near Russia, to begin college life on the TJC campus.
“TJC has an excellent education program and a competitive volleyball team,” Dziatchuk said. This may have played a role in her decision to become a Lady Apache.
“I am enjoying the states, but I do miss my family,” she said in her heavy Russian accent. Because Belarus is nine hours ahead of time, Dziatchuk has to time her calls home just right.
When I am waking up for practice, my mom is at home cooking dinner,” she said.
Dziatchuk’s parents both played basketball in school and her 11-year-old brother plays basketball as well.
“My family is very athletic…but I’m not aggressive enough for basketball,” she said, adding that her team is helping her in that department.
The team as a whole has worked with Dziatchuk to adapt to the U.S and understand American volleyball.
“At first Darya would rely on her hands to explain what she is trying to say, but now she has a better understanding of the language and the game,” returning defensive specialist Chelsea Lyons said.
Although Dziatchuk is the youngest player on her team, she definitely has the biggest role as the teams’ starting setter. She began playing tennis at six and volleyball at 10, but her “love for volleyball” just took over and the rest was “history,” Dziatchuk said.
Head Volleyball Coach Dana Hatch scouted Dziatchuk on an online Web site for foreign athletes wanting to play sports in America.
“I was like wow, somebody wants me to play for their team,” Dziatchuk said when she found out Coach Hatch was interested in her playing for TJC.
In Russia, volleyball is more fast-paced and a player can only play one position the entire game. However, in the U.S, the players transition and can play more than one position.
“This gives me the opportunity to play wherever coach allows me to,” Dziatchuk said.
When the coaches saw her play they were impressed with her skill at her age.
“Darya is a very hard worker and loves the game,” Assistant Coach Andrea Parker said.
The team s’ bonding nights before school helped Dziatchuk transition into the American way of life. The ladies went bowling, played putt-putt and tie-dyed team shirts.
“We are like a little family on campus,” Dziatchuk said.
A setter has a key role on the court. Their hands are on the ball during every play like a quarterback on a football team.
“I give Darya a lot of props for coming in as a 16-year-old foreigner and taking on such a huge responsibility as the teams’ setter,” Lyons said.
She hopes to transfer to a four-year university and one day play in the big leagues.
“This is only the beginning for me,” Dziatchuk said.