By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
SALEM, Ore. -- On the volleyball court, Dani Queja (So., OH, Ewa Beach, HI/Maryknoll School) is an attacker for the Bearcats. Off the court, she is majoring in Exercise and Health Science and is pursuing a minor in Public Health on her way to becoming an athletic physical therapist. When she's not focusing on her classes or volleyball, she might be found creating a wide range of art.
It's all part of being at Willamette University, where student-athletes compete in NCAA Division III and are encouraged to participate in a variety of activities in addition to their sport.
"I make all types of art: painting, drawing, lettering, and graphic design," Queja explained. "Not a lot of my art is scheduled or planned. It's more of picking up the pen and allowing it to dance across the canvas.
"What I like about being an artist is the ability to translate my talent into something physical that brings happiness to others," Queja noted. "My grandparents played a huge role in how I fell in love with art. At just the age of four, my grandmother was determined to help me with my penmanship and I started to learn cursive as well. My grandfather contributed to the drawing aspect of art as he would always draw cartoon characters for me. From then on, they've been my source of inspiration when it comes to art."
One of her graphic design projects was an infographic about team goals that appeared in a Willamette Athletics website story about volleyball practice this fall. This year, she's also working with Christopher Sabato, Assistant Athletics Director, Media, to help with various social media projects.
For Queja, the two parts of student-athlete hold significant meaning and are important to her.
"To be a student-athlete at Willamette means growth, responsibility, and overall sportsmanship in the classroom and on the court," Queja commented.
She's glad that she gets to spend her 'athlete' time with the volleyball team. In 2019, she played in all 25 matches and all 91 sets, while earning 2.49 kills and 2.87 digs per set as she finished third on the team in both categories. She also practiced throughout the 2019 season as well as this fall.
"I appreciate the family-oriented atmosphere that the volleyball team provides," Queja said. "The volleyball team is a guaranteed set group of friends who I know will always have my back. As a sophomore, I have definitely spent the past three semesters looking up to the upperclassmen on the team."
Queja has become a better volleyball player as a result of learning from her coaches and teammates. She was pleased with her accomplishments this fall, especially as a server. She also has noticed improvements from working out in the weight room.
"I have definitely improved at the service line," Queja asserted. "Coach Hallock has designed a lot of practices that highlight the importance of serving. In all, serving tough and acing the other team is the easiest way to get a point." Regarding the weight room "I feel that with the new complex lifts embedded into our volleyball culture ... they've made me a stronger player," Queja added.