Women's volleyball: Indiana setter Victoria Brisack wants to get inside your head
Victoria Brisack wants to get inside your head.
Indiana's sophomore volleyball setter eyes a career as a neurosurgeon when her playing days are over.
That means she might someday operate on brains, spinal cords, spines and associated nerves.
Or, she might coach.
Welcome to one of the many advantages of youth, when options are everywhere you look, if you're bold enough.
"The idea would be to go to med school and be a surgeon, to literally cut into people's heads," she says with a smile.
Brisack is a very good volleyball player (among the national leaders in assists with 539 this season), and might one day become a very good neurosurgeon. One passion can lead to the other if you open your mind.
Just not literally.
"It started when I was little -- the mind is so complex and we know so little about it -- and that was exciting to me, the undiscovered things," Brisack says.
"When you're young and in science class doing dissections and everyone else gets grossed out and you're sitting there going, 'Wow,' it kind of makes sense that surgery is a good thing for you."
This particular good thing will take time. A lot of it. Neurosurgeon training is extensive, requiring seven years after graduating from medical school. And if that becomes too much, Brisack can always look to her father, Al, a long-time college baseball coach in Wisconsin.
"I also love coaching," she says. "I have a passion for that.
"We'll see where I end up after college. I would like to pursue volleyball as long as humanly possible. If that's professional, so be it. Then school would take a back seat to that."
Volleyball setters do what you'd think they'd do -- pass to teammates so they can get kills and win points. It takes skill, execution, patience, communication and understanding.
Why is Brisack a setter?
The 11-year-old version of Brisack asked the same question.
"When I started playing volleyball, my dad suggested I be a setter. I told him absolutely not. Why would you want to be a setter? I was a hitter. I loved hitting because you got all the glory."
The elder Brisack persisted.
"Finally I went, Fine, I'll try it out. And I fell in love with it.
"More than anything it fits my personality. I like to think of myself as a very selfless player. The idea of being able to give to my teammates on every single play completely fits me and embodies what I believe in.
"You hear setter referred to as the quarterback role on the floor. Given my personality and my collective calmness on the floor, it suits that position. People can look to me in the heat of the moment or when there's a lot going on. Maybe some stress and they can see I'm calm and collected, and they can feed into that. It truly is who I am. If I was built for a position, I was built to be setter."
Coach Sherry Dunbar-Kruzan is a believer. She has seen Brisack grow dramatically from a freshman year in which she totaled 378 assists, 73 digs, 19 kills and 10 aces as the backup to senior Megan Tallman. Much of that comes from leadership, a crucial factor given that, with 11 freshmen and sophomores, this is Dunbar-Kruzan's youngest-ever team.
"I've been pleasantly surprised," Dunbar-Kruzan says. "She played a little bit last year, mainly because Megan broke her finger. She got some game experience, but it was very different from running her own team and having a lot of pressure on you, like she does now."
Brisack has been solid since the season-opening Indiana Invitational.
"She led out there, made calm decisions and put up very hittable balls," Dunbar-Kruzan says. "That's tough to do in some of these environments."
This isn't surprising given Brisack was a high school All-American in Wisconsin and a three-time member of the club National Team.
"We're training her hard," Dunbar-Kruzan says. "She's a competitor and when lights shine, she really steps up to the challenge."
So have all the Hoosiers. IU finished its non-conference season with a 11-1 record -- its best since a 12-0 start in 2010 -- after going 2-1 in last weekend's Hoosier Classic -- beating UNLV and Florida Gulf Coast, losing to Samford in five sets. Outside hitter Kendall Beerman and middle blocker Deyshia Lofton made the all-tourney team.
Now comes the challenge of a loaded Big Ten.
Minnesota is ranked No. 1 in the American Volleyball Association national poll, with Penn State right behind at No. 2.
Six other Big Ten teams are ranked in the top 25 -- No. 5 Wisconsin, No. 10 Nebraska, No. 15 Purdue, No. 21 Michigan, No. 23 Michigan State and No. 25 Ohio State.
The Hoosiers open Big Ten play by hosting Illinois on Wednesday and Maryland on Saturday.
Dunbar-Kruzan hopes the strong non-conference showing boosts team confidence for what's coming.
"We progressed further with our system and how we want to play the game. These kids have bought into that. If we can stay on us and the system we want to run against these teams, I think we'll be really competitive.
"How many matches we'll win I have no idea. We'll see how our system is working.
"We're in a good place. We're healthy; we're motivated; we're getting more confidence. I like having a young team going into that. That's why I chose to coach here. That's why they chose to play here. They want to play at that level. I think we'll rise to that occasion and not get intimidated by it."
How's that for opening your mind?