The Ole Miss volleyball team welcomed some new faces to campus in time for next year’s season. Already with a solid recruiting class, the team was looking to bolster the outside hitter position by looking at potential transfers. They found that keystone player in junior transfer Izzy Guzik.
Guzik will be a welcome addition to an Ole Miss team that struggled to compete with top teams last year and ended the season with a disappointing 14-18 record. She will provide a presence on the court opposite first-team All-SEC performer Emily Stroup, who finished second in the country in kills last year. Coaches hope this will help propel the team to an NCAA Tournament berth next fall.
“Every girl (on this team) is ready to grind every single day. They’re accountable to each other. I got here in (January), and they ‘grinded’ every single day. They take this seriously,” Guzik said. “I already know that with the talent on this team, we want to make the NCAA Tournament.”
This team has never had a problem with that, as current and former players attest to the tight-knit, family-like environment that surrounds Ole Miss volleyball. Guzik said the family feeling struck her right away and was a big part of why she felt comfortable making the transition from the University of Portland to Ole Miss.
“I can’t go anywhere without them wanting to do it with me,” Guzik said, with a laugh. “We’ll be taking off our kneepads and (they’ll say) ‘okay are we getting food after this?’ or ‘let’s all just come to my house and hang out’ and honestly I’ve never seen a team that doesn’t have the cliques or whatever, and I think that’s one of the keys to us being so good is because we are a unit, and we do things together all the time.”
Associate head coach Ronaldo Pacheco reiterated the strength of the volleyball team’s chemistry, saying that the women are extremely welcoming and personable to one another.
“The culture is really good with the group that we have right now and the newcomers, they won’t have any problem (trying to fit in) with what we are doing right now,” Pacheco said.
Guzik said she has been surprised by some of the differences between the South and the West Coast where she grew up, especially when it comes to athletics and how people treat athletes.
“I think they take the sports here a lot more seriously than they did on the West Coast. The athletes here are treated with more of a level of respect, and here, I feel almost like a celebrity walking around knowing that I play a sport at Ole Miss,” Guzik said. “At my old school, it was more academically driven and sports weren’t that big of a deal but here they have them and it’s awesome to be a part of that community.”
Guzik is excited to begin her Ole Miss career but said it is difficult adjusting to being so far away from home in California.
“I love it here, it’s been amazing. It’s hard, for sure, being away from home. It was very difficult getting home for spring break,” Guzik said. “But, it’s worth it. It’s awesome.”
Prior to her collegiate career, Guzik was a standout player at Westview High School in San Diego, where she helped lead her team to the 2013 State Regional Final.
She was named First Team All CIF (California Interscholastic Federation) San Diego Section in 2014 and the All-American watchlist in 2015. She played for the prestigious Coast Volleyball Club in San Diego, which placed first in the Southern California USA Volleyball Girls Junior National Championships Qualifier, first in the Kansas City GJNC Qualifier and fifth place in the Open Division of the National Championships. Her team finished as the No. 1 team in southern California.
“From watching film on her we felt that she was the best fit on the court, and getting to know her we felt she was a great fit off the court, so it just was a good get for us,” Ole Miss head coach Steven McRoberts said.
After high school, Guzik committed to the University of Portland where after redshirting her first year and receiving limited playing time as a redshirt freshman, she finally had a breakout season as a redshirt sophomore.
“We wanted our outside hitter position just to have some more competition,” McRoberts said. “(Guzik was) a six-rotation player for a good team in Portland so that experience of being able to step in right away, she’s already kind of been there done that from a playing standpoint.”
In 2018, she recorded 328 kills, 278 digs, 43 total blocks and 25 aces en route to an appearance in the quarterfinals of the National Invitational Volleyball Championships tournament.
“Being in the SEC was a huge reason for me to want to come here, the level of play is so much higher,” Guzik said. “The girls are so much bigger, more aggressive, the girls are hitting harder, the girls are digging it higher, it’s just a faster way to play.”