Volleyball a family affair for Danielle Faust
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At first, Danielle Faust just wanted to play volleyball in the backyard with her older sisters. Katie and Mary, now 28 and 24 years old, were practicing with their father when Danielle approached them.
At the time, she played basketball. But she wanted to be like her older sisters.
“I went over and said, ‘Can I join you guys?’ And my dad was like, ‘No, go play with your mom or something,’” Danielle said. “So that made me really mad, and I was like, ‘Oh, OK, I want to play volleyball, and I want to be really good at volleyball so I can play with [Katie and Mary] and have something in common with them.’”
So she pursued volleyball.
Danielle — now a sophomore at Mercer — began playing indoor in fifth grade, then adventured to grass doubles a year or two later. She didn’t experience beach doubles – which she now plays at Mercer – until the summer of her sophomore year in high school.
Living in Reading, Pennsylvania, Danielle had to travel more than two hours to play in beach tournaments. Grass doubles was more prevalent; she followed in her sisters’ footsteps and even played with them at times.
“I’m a really big family person, so whatever they did I kind of wanted to do,” Danielle said. “I really just wanted to be able to connect with them… So I went to all of their games. I watched them. My older sister ended up coaching my junior high team. It was just really big in my family, and I couldn’t go home without hearing about it or going to one of their games that weekend.”
Even though Katie was seven years older than Danielle, the two played together when Danielle was younger. As she grew older, Danielle would play more with Katie, who would eventually play Division-II volleyball at West Chester University.
Both are still her favorite doubles partners, even though playing with each one was a unique experience.
“Me and Mary were complete opposites,” Danielle said. “She’s a lot more bold than I am, and I’m more laid back, relaxed, shy, nervous and not as confident. So that worked well for a while until . . . when we would get angry with each other, she would take it out on me, and then I would sort of shut down.”
Playing with Katie was different.
“We’re the same exact person, so playing with her was always very relaxed and a learning experience,” Danielle said. “I never felt pressure.”
All three Faust sisters are still involved with volleyball; both Katie and Mary now coach while Danielle plays indoor and beach at Mercer. Danielle’s high school career was hampered by a knee injury during her junior year, a big year for recruiting from major schools.
She took matters into her own hands and researched schools herself.
“I wanted beach and indoor, and I want a school that — which stinks it’s really far away, but I had to come far away for it — but a school that’s small and kind of gives you that community feel, because I’m a big family/community person,” Danielle said. “So, Mercer was kind of the only fit.”
Her first semester included trials and tribulations. During one of the team’s preseason indoor tournaments, Danielle sprained her MCL. As she tried to come back, she said she would reinjure or favor the knee.
She played in nine of the team’s 29 games as a freshman.
“That was really difficult. There were definitely times where I was like, ‘What am I doing here if I’m not playing?’” Danielle said. “Because I didn’t declare my major yet, so it was really hard for me to find my place. But the team and [Coach Elder] were really supportive and still made me feel a part of the team and like I was doing something for them even though I couldn’t physically play.”
The tide turned during her freshman beach season. Danielle’s knee was cleared, and she was able to play the entire season. Playing with partner Claire Waliczek, Danielle finished with a 3-6 record.
According to Danielle, beach and indoor volleyball have a very different mindset.
“The biggest difference is just the atmosphere you get,” Danielle said. “In indoor, I get a lot more adrenaline because of the crowd. There’s five other players on the court with me, and the atmosphere is just a lot different, and I feel almost more pressure.
“But when I come out to beach or just playing doubles in general, it’s almost more at home for me,” Danielle said. “I love relying on other teammates, but I like relying on me and one other person to get the job done . . . You can kind of just play, and you don’t have to say things. It just happens. It can just happen naturally . . . and that relationship you can develop and how you can develop as two people, I think that’s really cool.”
Danielle said she prefers “doubles over sixes” rather than saying she enjoys beach more than indoor, because she has played more grass doubles than sand doubles. One of her goals over the next few years is to become more comfortable with her movement in the sand.
Healthy as a sophomore, Danielle played in 25 games during the indoor season and finished sixth on the team with 109 points and 102 kills. She said, ultimately, she would like to feel as comfortable indoors as she is on the beach — to never second-guess herself.
“I’ve always struggled with confidence, but it never really hit me until last year at indoor when I would step on a court, and I would just kind of think, ‘Wait, what am I doing? How do I do it?’” Danielle said. “I want to get back to being completely confident in myself, and I know I have struggled with that my whole life, so I really want to fix that.”