New Saluki athletes adapt to life at SIU

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Jared Treece | @bisalo

SIU women’s soccer player, Sam Dodd, poses for a photo. Dobb, a transfer player from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee has joined the Saluki team for the 2021-2022 season. “I thought it would be super cool as a chance to create history and build a really good program because its a new team. That stood out the most to me to turn this team into a winning culture,” said Dodd Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021 at Lew Hartzog Track and Field Complex at SIU.

New player additions to three SIU teams, 35 of those players being on the football team, are familiarizing themselves with campus as a new athletics year begins.

While there are 21 student-athlete transfers, many of these new faces happen to be incoming first-years, with a long athletic career ahead of them. Across football, volleyball, and soccer, there are 49 new total additions who look to contribute toward the respective teams.Each player is equipped with their own unique skill-set.

First-year SIU Women’s Volleyball setter, Anna Jaworski, said she was influenced to come to SIU because of a familiar style of coaching she enjoyed in her high school career.

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“My club coach is very similar to how Coach Ed Allen, (SIU Assistant Coaches) Tristan Johnson and Shelly Dyche are and their philosophies are very similar. It felt more like something I was used to because I had been coached under people like that for a very long time.” Jaworski said.

Jaworski said on the volleyball side of things, she’s happy with the team and the atmosphere on the court. 

“He recruits very similar players that want to win and want to work hard and you can really tell in our practices each day. It’s a really good atmosphere on and off the court,” Jaworski said.

However, she said her move to SIU was difficult at first, but she’s managed to figure out a routine thus far.

“It took me a little bit, but after the first week I’m starting to understand what it’s like to walk to each class and figure out my schedule and when to do homework,” Jaworski said.

For Sophomore Women’s Soccer transfer, Sam Dodd from Wisconsin-Milwaukee University, the transition to SIU has been smooth.

“Right when I announced I was transferring here, a lot of the girls reached out to me and we quickly became friends, which  really helped,” Dodd said.

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Dodd, a forward on the team, said she was brought to SIU to help the team score more goals.

“They only had one goal all year and I’m a forward, so I think with me being a forward, Coach Grant wanted to bring in more attacking players because they were struggling with that a lot last year,” Dodd said.

Dodd said Head Coach Grant Williams influenced her decision.

“After talking with coach Grant, he made it known that he cares about his athletes a lot and made it clear he wanted me. You can just tell that SIU loves their athletes and the coach made me come here,” Dodd said.

Senior Running Back transfer, Donnavan Spencer from Western Carolina, said he has been able to acclimate well to Carbondale because of the connections and friendships he’s made as well.

“The one thing he expressed about SIU is the culture,” Spencer said. “The love and culture the people bring to the games. It’s a family here. I’ve had good communication with my teammates and once the ball started rolling, everything was a family at that point.”

Joining Spencer will be forty-three other players entering their fourth, fifth, or sixth year in college football, making for a veteran oriented program.

Spencer, entering his sixth year in college, said he wants to pass on what he’s learned through his various experiences as a player. 

“I’m an old head, a veteran,” Spencer said. “I’ve been in college for five years now and they said they needed somebody that was older in that room. My experience with college ball was a great point for me coming here.”

But on the other side of the spectrum, coming in as a freshman can be scary. With Jaworski not knowing a lot of people on campus, she said the team has made her feel a lot better about being at SIU.

“I thought when I got here I would feel like I was all alone and I was homesick for a while, but honestly the people here are just so amazing and they always check in and ask how we’re doing,” Jaworski  said.“It’s great to see and it really translates on the court as well because everyone is so close.It’s what I was hoping for and it’s what I got so it’s really great.”

Junior Women’s Volleyball Outside Hitter Nataly Garcia, is the only transfer this year on the Women’s Volleyball Team. Garcia said she has meshed well with some of her other first-year teammates.

“We don’t know a whole lot about the university but we help each other and we’re getting closer because of that,”  Garcia said.

Garcia said she’s going to keep a close eye on her stats throughout the year so she knows what areas of her game she’ll need to work on.

“I want to get good stats by the end of the season, that’s how I’m going to know if I get better or not and which area I have to work on. If I need to work on my defense or my training and stuff like that,” Garcia said.

SIU’s Women’s Soccer team is in their third season and Dodd said having the opportunity to play for such a new program was something she found very intriguing.

“I thought it would be super cool as a chance to create history and build a really good program because it’s such a new team. That stood out the most to me to turn this team into a winning culture,” Dodd said.

Dodd, originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, said the team has been very welcoming so far.

“The best part is the team. Everyone has been so welcoming and coach Grant is so motivated for this season,” Dodd said.

While it’s difficult for first-year and transfer students to adapt to their new environment in Carbondale, they look forward to contributing to their teams and adding to the campus culture.  

“SIU has made it a great experience so far and it’s a family culture around here. Coach promotes that and being with these players, its like my new family so you can’t beat that,” Spencer said.

Sports reporter Joseph Bernard can be reached at [email protected] or on twitter @Jojobernard2001.

 

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