Favorite athlete: Kevin Durant
Favorite team: Golden State Warriors
Favorite memory competing in sports: The game against Upper Merion that we won, which gave Upper Dublin the first banner in the volleyball program’s history.
Most embarrassing/funniest thing that has happened while competing in sports: I ran into a teammate’s shoulder and got a really bad bloody nose and needed to use my coach’s shirt.
Music on mobile device: There is almost every genre of music. I listen to anything.
Future plans: I want to, hopefully, play in college
Words to live by: I love this quote by Grantland Rice, “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.”
One goal before turning 30: I want to travel to, at least, 20 different countries.
One thing people don’t know about me: I am a huge fan of fun socks. I have over 100 different pairs.
By Craig Ostroff
It’s not an exaggeration to say that Bryn Stek was born to play volleyball.
After all, both of Stek’s parents played the sport. Some of her earliest memories are watching her older sister, Taylor, playing in volleyball games and tournaments. And when she turned 10, Stek began her playing career with Infinity Volleyball Academy.
Now a senior co-captain for the Upper Dublin girls’ volleyball team, Stek continues her love of – and excellence in – the sport of volleyball.
“Bryn is the kind of kid who genuinely cares about volleyball, cares about the game and cares about her teammates,” said Cardinals’ coach Paul Choi. “Year after year, she only wants what’s best for the team, and you can see it because she’s so invested in the sport. Everything she puts herself through is to make the team better.”
Stek – who dabbled in soccer and basketball at the township and travel levels before deciding in middle school to focus on volleyball – had a stellar junior campaign as the Cardinals’ setter, earning Second Team All-League and Honorable Mention All-District One honors. Stek has started off her senior season with a major honor as well, as she eclipsed the 2,000-assist plateau in a recent match against Wissahickon.
“It really means a lot,” Stek said of the milestone. “When I first started here, it was Paul’s first year as well, so it’s kind of a milestone for both of us. It means a lot to me, and I hope it means a lot for my other teammates, too, because they’re all a big part of it.”
Stek and her teammates are looking to continue their strong start and extend their season well into the District tournament this year.
As the court general and a co-captain, it’s fair to say that as Stek goes, so goes the team. And when Stek is playing well, the rest of the Cardinals elevate their games.
“Bryn leads by example, she knows the game inside and out, volleyball is her life,” Choi said. “She has so much energy, but it’s positive energy. The team feeds off her, she has a presence about her. When she’s playing her game, everyone knows that every ball she touches is a good ball.”
This season, Stek has added a new dimension to her game – and given the Cardinals another offensive weapon – as she’s stepped up her offensive game.
“I’d had conversations with Paul about increasing my offensive attacks,” Stek said. “We knew coming in that we had one big hitter in Maggie (Weglos, the Cards’ other co-captain) and one middle returning, and a right side, but we weren’t sure how many other strong hitters we were going to have. He pushed me to work to be more offensive when setting. I do my best, I try to outsmart the hitters on the other team, keep them honest.”
“That’s challenging as a setter,” Choi said. “Her job is to set up her teammates, but then she’s also able to rack up 5-plus kills. Her volleyball IQ is very high – she knows when to attack and when not to. It makes my job as a coach very easy – I don’t have to worry, I know whatever she’s doing, she’s going to do it right.”
And while adding offense to her game repertoire may be a challenge, meeting and overcoming obstacles is nothing new for Stek, a four-year starter who stepped in as a freshman setter for Upper Dublin and had to learn how to run the floor amidst a team of upperclassmen.
While Stek admitted her early days for the Cardinals could be intimidating, Choi had no doubts that she would quickly prove herself a valuable member of the team.
“I’ve known of Bryn since she was in middle school, and knowing she was coming to high school and I was going to take over, I knew the potential she had,” the Flying Cardinals’ coach said. “She started varsity as a freshman, and she already had that leadership built into her. And over the years, as she got more comfortable, you could see that leadership more and more.”
It also helped the then-freshman adjust to high school play having her older sister Taylor as a senior on the team – the only time the two have played competitive volleyball on the same team.
“Playing together strengthened our relationship,” Stek said. “We knew we could count on each other more. We had another really good outside hitter, Melanie Phifer, but I think my sister and I had that special connection in certain situations.”
As a senior, a co-captain, and a leader on the current squad, Stek takes it upon herself to ensure that everyone feels a part of the team. She’s as loud and encouraging in the locker room as she is on the court, and she’s known to bring the beats on road trips to away games.
“I love cheering for my team,” she said. “I try to be as enthusiastic as I can before the game, while the team is warming up, making sure everyone is energetic and staying focused and staying together.
“On bus rides, I’m the one supplying the speaker. I like when it’s really rowdy on the bus. I like to get us really hyped up and have a lot of fun.”
“Bryn’s not the one on the bus sitting quietly by herself,” Choi said. “She sits in the back with the boom box and starts blasting it and gets the whole team singing. And they’re singing the whole time … not good singing, but singing.”
While volleyball dominates Stek’s life, she remains focused on her schoolwork as well. Senior year has started off “overall pretty good,” she said, with Honors Accounting and English sprinkled in among her courseload.
Club volleyball with Infinity will pick up after the high school season has ended, and travel and practices leave Stek little time for other extra-curriculars, though she will manage the boys’ volleyball team in the spring.
As for the future, Stek is still weighing her options, looking for a school where she can play volleyball and pursue her expected major of either sports medicine or physical therapy.
“I haven’t really narrowed anything down yet. I’m looking for the perfect match,” she said. “I would love to be able to play in college, but a couple schools I’ve looked at don’t have the major I’m interested in. So I’m still looking and keeping my options wide open.”
And she’ll continue looking for wide open teammates as the volleyball season progresses. Because in her final year on the court, she’d like to help lead the Cardinals to new heights.
“Obviously we want to make Districts and make it pretty far,” she said. “The past couple years, we made the second round but not past it, so the goal this year is to make it to the third round.
“But my main goal is just to go as far as we can with this team. We want to make sure the team is playing its best throughout every game, and everyone is putting their whole heart out there. And if we do that, we’ll have fun and we’ll be successful.”