Feb. 15, 2007
COLUMBUS, Ohio – By Stacey Freyer, Ohio State Athletics Communications
Desire, It was the feeling of wanting, wishing and hoping for a chance to prove himself; to earn the chance for personal success. It took three years of dedication and hard work until his chance was awarded. For men’s volleyball senior outside hitter Daniel Meske, it was three years of waiting that eventually led him to a chance worth waiting for.
Since his childhood, Meske was a volleyball fanatic. Watching his older siblings in their middle school games, a young Meske grew to become intrigued and fond of the sport. Initially he could not grasp the rules and understanding of the sport, but it was not long before he progressed into a high school star.
“It was a time in my life when I idolized my siblings and that was the sport they loved,” Meske said. “That transferred down to me and got me into the game. It was something I always aspired to be.”
During his four years at Lyons Township High School, in Willow Springs, Ill., Meske took his love for the game and turned it into success. The outside hitter was named all-conference twice, honorable mention all-state and played in the Illinois state championship in 2002 and 2003. Meske soon was highly recruited by several colleges.
His decision came down to Ohio State because of the size and its placement in the Midwest. Over the years he saw numerous Midwest players travel to the West Coast, which is known as the Mecca of collegiate volleyball. Hailing from the heart of the Midwest, Meske decided to stay close to home.
It was not an easy transition for Meske. The sport of volleyball had continued to become more physical and Meske was told by many he would never be a hitter in college. He came to Ohio State as a libero, but the thought of becoming a hitter always was on his mind.
“Coming in, the coaches told me I was too short to hit in the college game and I wasn’t physical enough,” Meske said. “Playing libero was the only way I could play for a Division I school. My senior year my club told me to get my foot in the door at Ohio State and however long it takes I could prove to them I could hit. If they took me in as a libero that was a chance I needed to jump on. I did that.” For the next three years Meske waited patiently for a chance to hit. He knew he could still help the team with his serve and defense and it was these contributions that kept Meske involved with the program.
“I knew I could still help the team out and being an older guy, I could help out the younger kids and leave the program in good shape,” Meske said. “That was one of the ways that got me through.”
Meske never gave up though. His goal was to become a hitter and that was exactly what he planned to do. He learned to hit by watching others, but rarely took a swing in practice. It was a time when he learned the game mentally rather than physically. Meske taught himself to hit without hitting, only by learning from watching people make errors and watching others excel.
“I would watch what would make people great hitters and what made people not so great hitters,” Meske said. “When I got my shot I just tried to be like those players who made great plays. In the back of my head I was saying, `I can do that.’ I can probably do it better if they would just give me a shot.”
During the off season, his determination was never forgotten as he spent the summer away from home and trained in Columbus. The mental part of his game was ready and it was time to begin building strength.
“Coach told me at the end of the year meeting last year hitting probably wasn’t in my future,” Meske said. “I told him I really think it is and I was going to work as hard as I could, just give me one shot.”
Head coach Pete Hanson said okay and Meske never forgot those words.
“One of the biggest reasons I’m probably playing right now is our strength coach, Andy Britain,” Meske said. “I told him at the beginning of the summer I don’t care if I see the court or how I do, but I want to make sure that no matter what happens I don’t want to get outworked this summer. I want to be the hardest working Division I volleyball player.”
The agreement was made and Meske did everything Britain asked of him.
“I have no regrets, even if I didn’t see the court or never played in practice,” Meske said. “I worked as hard as I could.”
The work and determination paid off for Meske, as he was given the chance to become a hitter his senior year. It was his goal since he first signed as a Buckeye and now it was accomplished. “The credit has to go to Dan,” Hanson said. “He improved himself over the summer, particularly physically. He’s jumping a little bit better, he’s just hitting the ball harder and he’s more consistent with the things he is doing. It was a matter of him earning his way on the floor.” It was a dream that ended with achievement and a new view of the game he has loved for so long.
“Everyday I have to prove to myself that I can hit,” Meske said. “It took me three years and I didn’t get to swing for three years, but somehow they gave me a shot my senior year. It worked out for me now. My experience at Ohio State has changed my view on the game. I went through ups and downs and it put things into perspective of what volleyball really means to me.”
For now, Meske will use his power hitting to help give the Buckeyes a chance to advance to the NCAA National Championship. With the core of the team back from its Final Four visit two years ago and a better feeling of where the program is headed, Meske feels achieving a second goal may not be far off.
“We are only getting better,” Meske said. “We aren’t maintaining where we are and we aren’t regressing. We are getting better every single day.”
It will take a hard work ethic and determination for Meske and his teammates to achieve this goal, but it is a belief Meske knows quite well.