Dressed in blue jeans and cowboy boots, you could tell that living in Texas rubbed off on former Carson High volleyball player Danae Eckart.
It seemed like only yesterday that Eckart, along with three CHS teammates received volleyball scholarships. Eckart, a hitter in high school for Justin Malley, moved on to the University of Texas-Permian Basin, an area in West Texas known more for its high school football. The area is where the book Friday Night Lights originated.
Eckart did a lot of hitting the first three years at Carson, and then switched to libero her senior year. She had found a home. Eckart left UTPB as the school’s leader in digs with 2,225 in her four-year career. She was the Heartland Conference Defensive Player of the Year in 2011 when she averaged six digs per set and was first team all conference as a senior despite missing time with an injury.
“She was a tenacious defender who played with great defensive instincts,” said UTPB coach Steve Aicinena, who also doubles as the school’s athletic director. “She is the best defensive player I’ve ever coached. She was also solid on serve receive. We ran a two-player receive formation her junior and senior season.”
A good libero is fearless. She has to be. You have to face some hard hits, and everything is important from footwork to being able to dig a ball out well enough to give a teammate a chance to pass the ball to the front row. It’s not a position for the faint of heart.
“I was so excited about it (playing libero),” Eckart said. “You just have to focus on defense. You’re the last line of defense. The thrill of getting the first ball up to keep the play going is great.”
And, she thoroughly enjoyed her collegiate experience.
“It was the experience of a lifetime,” Eckart said. “It was such a small campus, everybody knew who you were, especially the athletes. We supported all the teams. The experience helped me grow as a person. I found out a lot more about myself.
“We were in the conference tournament every year, usually third or fourth place. We were competitive. The chemistry was there. I thought we played great together.”
The 24-year-old Eckart, who graduated in four years from UTPB, is still active in the game. She’s helping coach a local club team which includes Carson stars Natalie Anderson and Jaycie Roberts. It’s something she wanted to do when she first came back, but her job with the Nevada Commission on Tourism didn’t allow for that. She left that job, and is now working as a waitress at the Texas Roadhouse in Reno.
“I was there (the tourism job) for nine months,” she said. “I couldn’t do a desk job. I was too hyper.”
And, besides coaching, she’s doing a little playing of her own. She has played some grass volleyball tournaments with Marco Bisio, who has coached club volleyball in Northern Nevada in the past. They have enjoyed some success, and Eckart wants to keep the dream alive.
Eckart is currently fund-raising in order to go to Europe as part of the European Exposure Tour. She’s looking for local businesses to sponsor her. Eckart has currently raised a little more than $800, but is looking to raise another $2000 to help defray airline expenses, housing and food while she’s overseas. She’s flying to Italy on Jan. 7.
The tour started in 2000 with the purpose of educating players on European volleyball and placing them on professional teams. The goal is to get players as much exposure as possible on the 11-day trip. The two teams of players from the United States will be in Milan for three days, Croatia for three days, Slovenia for three days and Budapest for two days.
“You are seen by scouts, agents, coaches and team managers, and you find out whether they want you or not,” Eckart said.
“Some people come over just to get exposed to the game. Depending on who picks you up, you could stay and start playing once the tour is over, or you could go back to the United States and then have a team bring you back over when their season starts.
“I talked to Emily Haas (former Douglas High star) about it. She has played for a few different leagues in Europe, including Finland.”
To get ready for the trip, Eckart has been training everyday, doing weights and working on serve receive, digging and serving.
So folks, dig in and help a deserving young athlete achieve her dream.