Dominique Olowolafe plans to rejoin her team on the court this Friday after missing most of the preseason and the Mustangs' first two conference games. John McCullough — Mustang Daily

An injured Dominique Olowolafe got on the bus with her team Thursday evening. She found her seat on the bus knowing she would be sitting on the sidelines for the team’s first conference game against UC Irvine.

Since her injury has kept her on the sidelines, Olowolafe has been able to step up and help the team as a leader both on and off of the court, assistant coach Caroline Walters said.

“She’s probably one of the most talented volleyball players I’ve ever had the privilege to work and play with,” Walters said.

Early in the season Olowolafe injured her hand going up for a block, something she did 77 times in the 2009 season. The injury has kept her from playing in most of the preseason and the team’s first two conference games.

During her absence on the court, Olowolafe has remained very present. Sitting on the sidelines has given her an opportunity to be an assistant-assistant coach. Players on the team often go to Olowolafe first to find out how to fix mistakes or be better players on the court, Walters said.

The benefit has gone both ways, Olowolafe said. Being sidelined has allowed her to see things from a different perspective. She has realized many of the things she needs to work on through her teammates.

“I’m ready to get back on the court, I’ve never had such a hard time sitting on the sidelines,” Olowolafe said.

Olowolafe is a standout player, even on a team full of talent. Last season, she was ranked first in conference with a .346 hitting percentage and was ranked fourth with 1.11 blocks per set her sophomore year. So how has her absence on the court affected the team?

Oddly enough, successfully. On the season, the Mustangs are 12-3. So far they are 2-0 in conference, with wins against UC Irvine and Cal State Northridge.

Walters expects Olowolafe’s return to the court will only benefit the team and is confident about the future of their season. The team has really stepped it up and if they can be as successful as they have been without their star, her return is only going to add to the success they’ve found so far this season, she said.

“As a program our goal is definitely a national championship,” Walters said. “But we also have to be realistic and first focus on winning the Big West tournament and getting to the Final Four.”

Olowolafe has no doubts they will win the Big West. For her, losing isn’t an option. Winning is a mindset that she has shared with her two older brothers since she was young.

Her oldest brother, Shay, lives in San Diego and makes it to every game he can.

Growing up, Olowolafe and her two brothers always prided themselves on their academic and athletic successes. For the three of them, winning has always been crucial, Dominique and Shay both said. However, being a champion is more than just about getting the win.

“I think there’s always going to be disappointment in losing, that’s inherent,” Shay said. “At the end of the day, did you leave everything on the court? If the answer’s yes and you lost, you still walk away a champion.”

This is something Dominique feels a lot of people probably don’t know about her, she said. Because of her success on the court, she feels people get an image of a cut-throat win or die individual which is a misconception she wishes to dispel, she said.

“I’m not too cut-throat,” Olowolafe said. “I take volleyball very seriously but in off season I like to have fun and relax.”

Volleyball is a very important part of her life and Olowolafe intends to pursue a career in the sport after Cal Poly, but it’s definitely not the only thing she considers herself able to do well, she said.

If Olowolafe hadn’t gone to school to play volleyball, she most likely would have gone to the University of Chicago to study some form of arts like photography, she said.

Her brother, Shay, describes her as very artistic. In addition to photography, Olowolafe spends a lot of her off time at home drinking tea, painting and playing piano. Her attitude and demeanor has earned her the nickname “Grandma” among her teammates.

“I’m not a big party girl,” Olowolafe said. “Most nights I’d rather just hang out at home.”

Olowolafe is currently practicing with the team and plans on playing in the Mustangs’ next conference game against Cal State Fullerton, who lost their first conference match at Cal State Long Beach.

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