Edmonds Community College volleyball coach Tony Miranda acknowledges that Michelle Dmitruk, his star outside hitter, doesn’t have the picture-perfect swing.
“You wouldn’t do a hitting video and teach people the purest way to hit based on her form,” Miranda said.
But the results? Those have the clarity and focus of photos taken with an old-school large-format film camera.
The Tritons head into this week’s Northwest Athletic Conference Volleyball Championships Tournament riding an 18-match winning streak, and Dmitruk is a big reason for Edmonds’ success.
“I’m really happy with our record and the way we’re playing and the chemistry we’re having,” Dmitruk said. “I’m happy with the bond we have and I’m really proud of all of us.”
Dmitruk, a 5-foot-10 sophomore and graduate of Cascade High School, is the top player for an Edmonds team that is 29-6, went undefeated in the North Region, and carries the No. 4 ranking in the NWAC coaches poll into the NWAC tournament, which takes place Thursday through Sunday at the Greater Tacoma Convention Center. The Tritons open the double-elimination tournament against West Region No. 4 Tacoma at 2 p.m. Thursday.
And Dmitruk is Edmonds’ leader despite an unorthodox swing that’s a product of an unusual path to collegiate volleyball. Dmitruk didn’t come up through the club volleyball system. Instead, she began playing at about 8 years old when her father, Vyacheslav, who doesn’t have a volleyball background, would take her and her four sisters into the backyard to bump and set. Dmitruk went on to play for a Cascade team that usually found itself at the bottom of the Wesco 4A standings. She didn’t even know about the existence of club volleyball until she was encouraged to join during her junior year of high school.
“Whenever I tell people, ‘I only played two years of club,’ they’re like, ‘What? Why didn’t you play longer?’” Dmitruk said. “I don’t know, I really don’t. But I like how my dad introduced me to the sport.”
As a result Dmitruk wasn’t a coveted recruit coming out of high school, and her decision to go to Edmonds was as much a mutual decision as it was a hard recruitment. But since setting foot on campus Dmitruk has been the Tritons’ go-to hitter. Last year she was Edmonds’ top offensive player, and this year she’s taken it to another level. Dmitruk leads the team in points (291.5), kills (254) and aces (31) and is second on the team in digs (160). Her kills-per-set rate of 3.53 ranks third in all of NWAC.
But what sets Dmitruk apart is her hitting efficiency. Dmitruk’s hitting percentage is .299, which ranks ninth in the league. Over the past 12 matches she’s hit at a blistering .361, an absurd percentage for someone who sees as many sets as she does. When the Tritons need a kill, there’s little doubt who’s getting the ball.
“It’s very valuable, especially in tight situations,” freshman setter Haylee Hooper said about having Dmitruk as a go-to hitter. “We have really good chemistry together on and off the court, and it’s good to see how well we flow together on the court.”
Hitting efficiency has been one of Dmitruk’s biggest improvements, as her percentage took a big jump from last year’s .261.
“She’s gotten a lot smarter,” Miranda said. “Last year she would hit everything as hard as she could, and if there was no block there it was the most impressive thing you ever saw. Now if the block’s there, she’s going to do something different to try and get a kill. It doesn’t always have to be as hard as she can, trying to hit the ball straight down.”
Because of that Dmitruk has become a player capable of playing at the four-year collegiate level. Miranda said Dmitruk could play for any NAIA school and half the NCAA Division II schools. Dmitruk also has the advantage of being on track to graduate from Edmonds after the winter quarter, meaning she could join a four-year school for its spring practices.
But before that comes the NWAC tournament. Edmonds has a well-balanced team this season and isn’t solely dependent on Dmitruk. Freshman Sadie Gardner and sophomore Zarya Smith, both of whom came to Edmonds via Utah, provide additional options on the outside, while sophomores Riley Rasar and Kendall Broschat are dangerous from the middle.
Yet Edmonds, despite its 18-match winning streak in which it dropped just four sets, is not a tournament favorite. Spokane has yet to lose this season, while Pierce and Walla Walla are powerhouses that beat the Tritons during the regular season. Edmonds, which went 1-2 at the NWAC tournament last year, is aiming for a top-four finish.
“If we put our heads into the game and go all out and play the way we can, I feel like we can take a trophy home,” Dmitruk said.
And regardless of the image’s form, that would be a picture the Tritons would be thrilled to snap.
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