Sept. 6, 2012
Freshman Dallas Gardner’s ready to handle the pressure
By David Boyce
So many things are bombarding a freshman student-athlete the first few weeks of college that a coach has to wonder are their words truly sinking in.
A new environment, harder classes and stronger competition can be overwhelming.
Northwest Missouri State freshman setter Dallas Gardner has seemingly bypassed freshmen jitters.
The first bit of evidence came in the volleyball team’s first competition of the year at the Hyatt Place Sunshine Classic in West Palm Beach, Fla. Gardner started in the very important position of setter and helped the Bearcats go 2-2.
In the 3-1 victory over Barry, Gardner led the Bearcats with 21 assists and added seven digs. She followed that performance with 20 assists, 13 digs and 5 service aces in a 3-0 win against Saginaw Valley State.
“It was a new experience. It was fun. I was actually impressed with how comfortable I felt,” Gardner said. “I thought I would be a lot more nervous than I actually was, but of course I was nervous. It was my first college match. I think I handled it a lot better than I expected.”
The second piece of evidence that Gardner is handling her first taste of collegiate athletics with the calm of a veteran came Tuesday at the weekly media luncheon at the Student Union.
When Gardner was asked what she wants to see from the Bearcats Friday and Saturday in four matches in the Missouri S&T Middle of Everywhere Classic, she delivered the perfect words.
“I think we need to be more comfortable in uncomfortable situations,” Gardner said.
A big smile and a pump of the fist sprung from Northwest head coach Amy Phelps as she heard Gardner reiterate her words following the first weekend matches.
“It stuck with me,” Gardner said. “I think we need to handle being under pressure the whole match better.”
Once you know Gardner’s background in volleyball it should not come as a surprise she already seems so comfortable.
Gardner is from St. James Academy in Lenexa, KS. She played a role in four straight Kansas 4A state championships. In her junior season, St. James Academy won a national championship.
“It was fun, really fun,” Gardner said of the state titles. “It does not ever get old. You think it would, but it really doesn’t.”
Translation: Gardner enjoys winning. It means she will do whatever is necessary to help the Bearcats succeed on the court. Being a freshman is irrelevant.
“They all pretty much listen,” Gardner said of her older teammates. “Nobody has talked back or got in my face. It is going pretty well.”
Of course, it helps that Gardner has a couple of solid hitters to set to in sophomores Abby Graves and Brooke Bartosh.
“They are go-to players,” Gardner said. “I have confidence in giving them the ball and they will be able to put it away.
“I’m really excited about our offense potential. I think we saw glimpses of it in some of the matches. We had really good connections. There were glimpses where it wasn’t there. But we can get it there.”
Phelps is equally excited in the potential of Gardner. She liked what she saw last weekend.
“Dallas played well,” Phelps said. “She was consistent with what she did. She always gave 100 percent. She started to flow better with our offense. She always wants to have fun, which is a good thing. You can see that on the court.”
Only a week into September, Gardner is definitely at home in Maryville. She picked Northwest over Washburn, Emporia State and Missouri Southern.
“I thought it was a better fit for me, personally,” she said. “I like the whole atmosphere. I like the girls on the team a lot. They were welcoming on my visit. And the campus is beautiful.”
Gardner also has an idea what she wants to do when she graduates from Northwest.
“Right now I’m working on pre dentistry because I want to be a pediatric dentist,” she said.
For a freshman in college, that is far in the future. On the volleyball court, Gardner wants to help the Northwest become one of the best teams in the MIAA. The youthful Bearcats have a few key components to get there.
Phelps liked the way the team bounced back after a subpar performance in the first tournament.
“Coming back from Palm Beach Atlantic and playing the way we did was a good step for our team,” Phelps said. “They weren’t happy with the way they played against Palm Beach Atlantic and they turned that around.
“Each time we struggled after a match I felt we responded the next time.”
Phelps is looking for more growth this weekend.
“I want to see more consistency and create a consistent flow regardless of what situation we are in,” she said. “If it is presented, they need to take a situation and make the best of it. If it is not presented, they need to fight for it.
For more information, please contact:
Phillip Dowden, Media Relations/Sports Information
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