Three years ago, Reporter sat down with first year Biomedical Science major Sarah Szybist after she claimed the title of Liberty League’s "Rookie of the Week" on multiple occasions. At the time, she was tied for the ninth spot in the nation for kills per set in NCAA Division III.
Now, with over two thousand kills, Szybist has surpassed Tracy Wilt to become RIT volleyball’s record holder in career kills.
“I never expected that I would become the all-time leader in kills,” said Szybist.
“I wasn’t sure of what my role would be when I got here my freshman year, so it was never something I ever imagined would happen.”
Her coach, Jim Lodes, expressed his praise for Szybist on her feat. “I’m most impressed that Sarah has achieved surpassing Tracy while placing the team and its goals first,” he commented. “She has always been willing to do whatever it would take to help the team. Her role each season as an attacker has evolved and she has embraced the ‘team first’ mentality while being prepared to do her part. I couldn’t be more proud of her with this achievement."
At the beginning of the 2016 season, Szybist set certain goals for herself as she underwent her final year of college volleyball. “I want to make sure that I am the best teammate and captain this season that I can be,” she said. “I am continuing to work hard at being reliable both on and off the court to my teammates and coaches.”
Szybist also hoped to “play better statistically, especially with my hitting percentage, and I would like to garner some more end of season accolades.” Ultimately, one of her "biggest goals is leading my team to a Liberty League Championship and being able to play in the NCAA tournament.”
With the season almost halfway done, Szybist has been making great progress on the aims she set for herself. “I am definitely on my way to improving my playing ability and stats so far,” she commented. “As a team, we are definitely making progress. We had a great start to conference play and I believe we are starting to see the potential that our team has at going really far this season.”
Szybist and the team are having a better start to their season than they did last season, a change that she credits to a switch in team dynamics. “We have amazing chemistry. Everyone is really talented and we have so much depth that we can rely on everyone to contribute in all of our games,” she explained. “We’re all happy to be around each other and everyone is willing to work hard to make our team the best that it can be.”
Lodes also agreed with Szybist on how well the season has been going so far. “I’m proud of the team and Sarah for the start of the season. I feel we have given ourselves every opportunity to succeed. This group has embraced the idea of team goals first,” said Lodes. “So far, they have managed to stay process oriented while seeing the big picture. They know that if they continue working hard within those parameters, team and individual success will be an option for us.”
“I’ve really enjoyed working with this group,” added Lodes.
Szybist attributes some of her success towards Lodes, as she was able to achieve everything he said that she would achieve in her four years at RIT.
In our 2013 article, Lodes predicted that “She has the potential to be very decorated.” He also believed she could be "all-conference, hence the awards so far, but she can also be all-region. She’s gifted enough to be All-American."
Lodes projections came to past — during her time here at RIT, Szybist has received three straight AVCA Honorable All-American honors as well as her three straight AVCA All New York Region selection.
Szybist has trouble believing that she was truly able to complete all the expectations that Lodes set out for her freshman year. “It’s still hard to believe that I have achieved everything that he believed that I could; that’s one of the reasons why I chose RIT,” she explained.
She also greatly appreciates how helpful Lodes has been in terms of her progress over the years. “Coach Lodes told me that he wanted to make sure that I improved while I played here when I met him on my recruiting trip, and that’s one of the reasons why I’ve gotten to where I am,” said Szybist. “Coach Lodes has helped me a lot throughout the last three years, and I wouldn’t have been able to achieve anything without my team supporting me.”
The volleyball team recently held a Liberty League tournament here at RIT at the Clark Gym this previous weekend, and Szybist was happy with the results. The Tigers won three games out of four, with two of their games being in won in three straight sets against St. Lawrence University and Bard College. This allowed them to begin their conference record with a 3-1 winning record.
“The League Championship is wide open,” said Szybist. “We played really well against everyone this past weekend, and I believe if we keep working hard we can win the Championship at the end of the season.”
This being Szybist's final season, she hopes the Tigers can become Liberty League champions and compete in the NCAA tournament at the end of the season.
While Szybist's journey at RIT is drawing to a close, Lodes is optimistic for the future of the program.
“I feel that every season has a sense of a new beginning as well as a continuation on what has happened in the past,” said Lodes. “I’m sure we will embrace the challenge of trying to maintain our place as a team that can compete for Liberty League championships.”
“Sarah will not be easy to replace, but I expect that we will be up to the task of finding our new identity when the time comes,” added Lodes.
Szybist was in agreement. “We have a lot of talented underclassmen that will be able to pick up where we stop this season,” she said. “I think that the way we are maintaining our team culture will continue on to next year, and I hope our tremendous teamwork, work ethic, and success this season will keep everyone motivated to achieve the same next season.”
Catch Szybist and her teammates in action as they host the RIT Invitational this Friday and Saturday, September 13 and 14. With back to back games against Utica College, Trine University, St. John Fisher College, and Desales University, this weekend promises to be a thrilling one. Come out and support our Tigers as they make history on the volleyball court!