UF volleyball's Recek experienced beyond years


Published: Thursday, October 18, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, October 19, 2012 at 12:35 a.m.

Coach Mary Wise often refers to Ziva Recek as “not your typical freshman.”

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It's not just because of this Slovenian slammer's abilities on the court.

“When we were recruiting Ziva and she had accepted the offer to come to Florida, all of the paperwork that had to be done as an international student to get here — she took care of all that on her own,” Wise said. “That's not typical of most high school seniors we see.”

She certainly doesn't play like a freshman.

Recek has stepped in as a starting outside hitter for a team that graduated a pair of All-America pin hitters in Kelly Murphy and Kristy Jaeckel and has helped lead 11th-ranked UF (15-2, 9-0) to 12 straight wins and the top spot in the Southeastern Conference.

Heading into this weekend's matches at Alabama and Texas A&M, she leads the Gators in kills (231) and points scored (254), is second in digs (114) and has 22 blocks and nine aces while posting a .306 hitting percentage, making her a strong candidate for SEC Freshman of the Year.

“A lot of teams don't ask a freshman outside hitter to play six rotations,” Wise said. “She serves, she passes, she plays in the middle back and she has been matched up against some of the premier right-side players in the country. That is a heck of a lot to ask of a freshman.”

Competing against older players is nothing new. At the age of 13, Recek played for the Slovenian Youth National Team and, three years later, was promoted to the Slovenian Junior National Team.

She has won numerous championships, including multiple club and beach titles, and twice was named the top young female player in Slovenia as a member of the Dolenjska regional team.

“I got a lot of experience by playing in our league because I played in the first division,” Recek said. “Most of the players are over 20 years (old), so it was a great experience for me.”

The transition to American college life has had its bumps.

“Everything is different here — volleyball, the language, the culture,” Recek said. “At first, I was a little bit uncomfortable because it's a different style of volleyball and because of the language.

“I'm still adjusting, but this is a great experience in my life. I am enjoying it.”

So are her teammates.

“We love Ziva; she's just so funny,” said senior Tangerine Wiggs. “She plays so relaxed. She doesn't play like a freshman at all. There are balls that Ziva can get over and go for kills that I don't know how she does it.

“She's so composed. She doesn't ever seem down, no matter what she's doing. She's just a huge part of our team, and we love her energy and enthusiasm.”

Only one thing would make it all better.

“I miss my mom's food because we always cook at home,” Recek said. “Here, I have to eat at some restaurants or places like that because I don't cook. Sometimes I can find something, but sometimes I just do bad choices with fast food and things like that.”

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