ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – Danielle Rygelski leaves Saint Louis University Volleyball as one of the most dominant hitters in Billikens history. And it wouldn’t have been possible without a special bet from her father.
“I think it’s just awesome that I made mark on SLU,” Rygelski says. “They hadn’t had an All-American since, I don’t even know how many years, since like 2007 or 2008. I feel like I helped bring SLU volleyball back to being known as a volleyball school. That they can be an aggressive team in the A10, that they can make it to the NCAA tournament which hadn’t happened in years.”
She was the Atlantic 10 Conference Player of the Year and a third-team AVAC All-American in 2016. Which is the highest national award a SLU player has received since 2008, when Sammi McCloud received the same honor. Rygelski led the nation in total kills, setting a record for kills in a season with 715, and will leave SLU with the 2nd most kills in school history.
And in each of her four years the Billikens moved closer and closer to the goal of reaching the National Championship Tournament.
“My freshman year we lost in the first round, sophomore year lost in the second round, and then Junior year lost in the final, but pretty badly,” Rygelski says. “So this year the way we lost, even though it ended, the tournament as a whole just felt a lot better.”
Rygelski still set an A10 Conference championship record with 80 kills in the 2016 tournament. And she was able to do it front of a home crowd, since SLU hosted this year’s A10 Tournament.
“We had never had a crowd like that weekend since, maybe when we played Mizzou my Junior year,” Rygelski says. “But ever before that it had never been that many people.”
The Billikens lost the best-of-five match by three sets to two, ending Rygelski collegiate volleyball career. But now she’s only a semester away from the payoff of a pact made between her and her dad when she was in middle school.
“I told my parents I wanted to play in college and get a scholarship,” Rygelski says. “And my dad is going to hate me for saying this, he says ‘if you go to college on a full scholarship and graduate, then I’ll get you a corvette.’”
She clearly didn’t let her dad forget about that promise as she became an All-American as a senior at Francis Howell High School. When it came time to choose one of the multiple colleges vying for her commitment, she handed her parents a photo of a Billiken-blue colored corvette, meaning she had chosen to stay close to home.
But since most student athletes don’t make a deal like that with their parents, Rygelski wanted to leave a different message for the youth volleyball players in the area.
“Being fearless is the best way to play volleyball,” “You can’t play scared, you can’t play timid. You just have to go up and swing.”
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