Less than two weeks into the 2013 volleyball season, Romana Kriskova is showing the entire country why she was recruited out of Bratislava, Slovakia two years ago.
In her second year playing in the U.S., the VCU sophomore is dominating early competition, leading the Rams to an IUPUI Hampton Inn Invitational tournament title and a 7-2 record overall.
The humble 20-year-old won’t admit it, but she is the main reason VCU’s volleyball team came moments away from recording its first victory over a ranked opponent in program history against Kentucky on Sept. 6.
Kriskova has led the Rams in kills in each of the team’s first six matches, averaging nearly 20 per -contest thus far.
In the past three weeks alone, she has been named tournament MVP in Indianapolis, Virginia Lottery Student Athlete of the Week and Atlantic 10 Player of the Week.
These honors come after a freshman season where Kriskova was named to the A-10 All-Rookie team.
Off of the court, she is soft-spoken and modest. But on the court, Kriskova towers over the net and punishes opponents. She said she has her family to thank.
“My mom is a big volleyball player,” she said. “I remember running up to her at her matches and asking her to play. She told me I had to wait until I was older.”
That’s exactly what Kriskova did. At 10 years old, she picked up the sport her mother and brother introduced her to.
By 14, Kriskova changed high schools in Slovakia to concentrate on volleyball. She knew the move would mean less time with family, but she made the sacrifice to follow her dreams.
Shortly after her relocation, Kriskova signed a five-year contract with Slavia EU Bradislava, a prominent Slovakian club team.
She has played for both the junior and senior Slovakian National teams. In 2011, she led her club team to the Slovakian Championship Match.
Kriskova’s success in Slovakia gained her global recognition. Upon graduating from high school in 2011, she made the leap to the U.S. Several American universities recruited her, but apparently VCU was just lucky enough to win her over.
“I don’t know why I picked VCU, I just like it,” Kriskova said. “But [now] I am happy to be here.”
It’s safe to say that the Rams are happy to have her.
One year removed from an impressive 25-6 record, VCU returns Kriskova at the outside hitter position and fellow A-10 All-Rookie team member Martina Samadan.
Together, the pair of sophomores has the Rams in prime position to contend for an Atlantic 10 championship and potentially earn the team’s first NCAA tournament bid since 2009.
Though it was Samadan who was named A-10 Rookie of the Year one season ago, it is Kriskova who is the early favorite for A-10 Player of the Year in 2013.
Perhaps the defining moment in her emergence came Sept. 7 against East Tennessee State, when Kriskova stole the show in a tiebreaker. She personally accounted for four of the final seven points and racked up an astounding 27 kills overall—the most for a Ram since 2007.
With nearly three full years left in college, her potential is limitless. The room for improvement is vast, and VCU’s record books might be laced with her name once she graduates.
But for Kriskova, it isn’t about the personal achievements. It is all about the team.
“I don’t care about individual awards because this is not an individual sport, it’s a team sport,” she said bluntly. “So my goal is to win the A-10 tournament.”
Winning the conference championship isn’t out of the realm of possibilities for the Rams in 2013. Though they will have to surpass four-time defending champion Dayton, VCU currently stands atop the early standings with a 5-1 record.
The Rams will go as far as Kriskova can take them. And based on her assessment of the team under new head coach Jody Rogers, Kriskova thinks they are in a great position to contend on a national level.