School: North Penn
Favorite athlete: Derek Jeter
Favorite team: New York Yankees
Favorite memory competing in sports: Being part of the girls’ volleyball team to win a tournament for North Penn
Most embarrassing/funniest thing that has happened while competing in sports: The first time I tried to do an over-the-shoulder roll and failed miserably.
Music on iPod: The Wanted, Maroon 5, Olly Murs
Future plans: Elementary Education, play collegiate volleyball
Words to live by: ‘You’re never a loser until you quit trying.’
One goal before turning 30: Go to London and travel around Europe
One thing people don’t know about me: If I’m not eating, sleeping, playing volleyball or doing schoolwork, I’m usually watching the Food Network.
By Mary Jane Souder
Bryan Yost calls senior Stephanie Elechko the best captain he has ever had.
“She has the complete respect of the girls and still is just working to get better herself,” the North Penn volleyball coach said. “She’s calling meetings, she’s taking care of all the problems on the floor, pulling the girls aside and talking with them, not sending them to the coaches.
“She has already run drills for the entire team, and she’s taught the jayvee middles how to improve their approaches. It’s basically like having a woman coach on the staff who can help relate to the girls better than any of us three guys.”
In truth, coaching could well be part of Elechko’s future since she is looking to pursue an elementary education major.
“I have the attitude of always trying to help other people get better, working with other people to improve things,” she said. “I think I will definitely try coaching once. It will probably click, and I will probably end up coaching.”
Elechko is one of the area’s premiere players, but it is not just her skills on the court that make her such an effective leader. It’s her understanding of her responsibilities.
“We have always said in our first team meetings that a captain is an extension of the coach, and you give them the same respect you would give a coach,” she said. “I just try and take on the role of a coach and try and be someone they can look up to and help individuals and the team as a whole because it is a team sport.
“If you struggle mentally individually, it will affect the whole team. Individuals can affect the whole team. The biggest thing in our sport is you can have all the physical skills in the world, but it won’t do you any good if you don’t have the right mental attitude.”
Elecho is the total package on the volleyball court and leads the Maidens in kills, blocks and aces.
“She plays all the way around and does well defensively,” Yost said. “She has the ability to take over matches if she gets on a roll.
“She’s the voice on the floor. If we’re beating teams, but we’re not playing well, she gets on the girls. She’s intense and a complete gamer.”
Elechko got her first taste of volleyball when she was a freshman, following in the footsteps of her sister Kathryn Elechko.
“I kind of decided to go out for it because I figured I should use my height for something,” said Elechko, who was 5-8 at the time but now measures in at 6-2. “I wasn’t a fan of basketball, and everyone was like, ‘If you’re that tall, you should be playing basketball or volleyball.’ I figured I would try volleyball, and it clicked right away.”
Elechko’s career actually got off to slow start, thanks to a broken wrist that occurred while playing travel soccer.
“We really didn’t get much out of her that year, but it was clear there was something special about her,” the Maidens’ coach said. “You could just sense it – the look on her face, the way she responded to critiquing.
Despite being sidelined the majority of her freshman year, Elechko had caught the volleyball bug.
“Even after I broke my wrist, I was in the gym every day after school at practice,” she said. “I was just hitting the ball against the wall, getting as many touches as I could.
“Even though I wasn’t playing, it was still enjoyable.”
By winter, Elechko was competing on the club circuit with Infinity volleyball club.
“Once I finally got back, it was even better than I expected,” she said. “I just loved the whole team aspect of it and how – if you were down – you could look at your teammates to help bring you up.
“The whole mental attitude that you need to have, having to let things go and focusing on what to do in the future – I liked that because it really helped me in my life skills too, not just volleyball.”
Elechko was a natural on the volleyball court, and after one season with Infinity, she began competing with Philadelphia Volleyball Academy and has been a member of PVA’s number one team the last two seasons.
“Thankfully, it came pretty naturally because I guess I’m a pretty athletic person,” she said. “After playing a sport once or twice, I’m just automatically hooked on it.”
A three-year varsity player, Elechko has started in each of the past two seasons.
“She was good enough to start as a sophomore, but for her, I felt it was better if she worked for it,” Yost said. “I think I frustrated her because I didn’t give her a chance to start, but I think it was better for her. It allowed her to work the way she’s always worked.”
Elechko still saw plenty of varsity time and found herself in the starting lineup in the Maidens’ opening round district game at Hatboro-Horsham. The Maidens came up short, but Elechko had served notice that she was a force to be reckoned with, leading the team in blocks and kills.
“After that, she just took off,” Yost said. “She played for PVA. She was a monster on the floor for them, and she came back her junior year and was just a monster all year and a captain.
“This year, she’s just everything.”
Elechko’s resume off the volleyball court is equally impressive. She is a member of the Key Club and SALSA (Spanish and Latino Student Association) and has volunteered her time to Special Olympics and Relay for Life. Service, it seems, comes naturally to Elechko, who is one of five siblings.
“I always enjoy making other people happy,” she said. “If I had to choose between my happiness and someone else’s, in a heartbeat, I would try and make someone else’s day just because I like seeing people smile, and that will make me smile.”
An honor roll student, Elechko is enrolled in all honors classes.
“I have always learned that I need to succeed academically in order to get where I want to be in life,” she said.
Elechko has caught the eye of more than a few college coaches, including Eastern University and Juniata, and she is keeping her options open.
“I just really want a good education program as well,” she said.
For now, Elechko is focused on making sure the Maidens finish strong and is hoping a team meeting after an upset at the hands of Central Bucks East recently has pointed the Maidens in the right direction.
“Everyone got to say what they needed to say,” she said. “We told everyone that we really needed a different attitude on and off the court about what we need to do and how we need to do it.
“I saw an immediate switch. If it happened that fast in one day, we definitely have high hopes for the postseason.”
Whatever the outcome, the Maidens, according to Yost, will be in good hands.
“Stephanie is truly one of the most admirable young ladies I have ever had the privilege to coach,” he said.