The lights at Mott Athletics Center went dark, the marching band started playing and strobe lights began to shine onto the Cal Poly volleyball team as the announcer introduced the starters for the 2021 season. 

However, one name was left off the list this year: star player Maia Dvoracek

Dvoracek suffered a serious leg injury in the spring of 2021, which forced her to miss the entirety of the 2021 season. Before her injury, she had been a significant part of the Cal Poly volleyball program, as she led them to the NCAA tournament, was named an All-American in 2019 and even made the U.S Women’s Collegiate National Team in 2020

“One of the biggest things I was worried about when I was out with my injury was still finding a way to be connected with the team,” Dvoracek said.

She did this by sitting in the press box covering the Mustangs’ home games as a sportscaster. 

“One of the biggest things and why I wanted to do sportscasting was because I did not want to sit in the bleachers by myself, feeling sorry for myself that I could not be on the court or even on the bench,” Dvoracek said. 

Hailey Belcher | Mustang News

It was not an easy path to success early in Dvoracek’s career. She received just one other scholarship aside from Cal Poly’s coming out of high school and only started two matches as a sophomore.

However, Dvoracek rarely saw the bench the last time she competed and started all 30 games for the Mustangs in 2019. In addition to her All-American honors, she was named Cal Poly’s female athlete of the year in 2019-2020. Dvoracek also helped the Mustangs win back-to-back Big West Conference titles in 2017 and 2018 before leading Cal Poly to its third straight NCAA Tournament appearance in 2019. 

“As far as the program, I think she has left a legacy that will stay for a very long time,” teammate Meredith Phillips said. “She has helped change the culture and helped the program be what it is.”

When Dvoracek started to feel that she was coming into her own as an athlete, her injury derailed her from the traction she gained in volleyball. 

“It is still a pit in your stomach the way it feels, but the first time I saw my scans with my surgeon up at Stanford was probably the most crushing day of my life,” Dvoracek said.

“I was really upset more because I know just how hard she has worked to get where she is,” Phillips said.

Despite her injury, Dvoracek has turned it into a positive. In a year where she could not practice, train or travel with the team because of her injury and eligibility rules, Dvoracek turned to sportscasting. 

“I loved feeling the different side of the game,” Dvoracek said. “Getting hurt was not fun but getting to do something like that was something I would never have gotten to do if I was actively playing.”

Not only has Dvoracek used her voice to call games, but she has also used her voice online with a blog to help share her journey and recovery with others. 

“I think if you do not make something out of it, it can be such a waste and I did not want to waste a year off the court when I could have done something,” Dvoracek said. “I find that writing for myself is something that helps me get through a lot of things in my life.”  

Currently, Dvoracek has taken her fiery competitive approach to her physical recovery as she plans to play in the upcoming 2022 season. She is currently about eight months into her post-operation and hopes to be cleared by April or May, according to Dvoracek. 

“I have learned so much from her even before her injury, but now seeing how she has approached her recovery has helped me with my outlook on volleyball and life in general,” Phillips said.

Dvoracek was praised by her head coach about her toughness and resilience throughout her recovery process.

“She is the best example of my time here as someone that has understood and trusted that if she puts in the hard work in this process then good things will come,” head coach Caroline Walters said. 

Dvoracek is excited about the light at the end of the tunnel as she hopes to return to spiking balls over the net onto the hardwood, but her outlook on life during her journey has changed her perspective about her future. 

“I think it happens to a lot of athletes where your whole life is sports, and it just becomes your identity,” Dvoracek said. “Figuring out maybe I can be a sportscaster, have a website and coach for a living –– all of those things helped me feel that I would be okay regardless of whatever happened with volleyball.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.