Victoria Van Dan serves for the UW-Eau Claire Blugolds in a game this season. Van Dan played for the Burlington Demons’s state tournament teams in 2019 and 2020. (Submitted photo)

Van Dan started at setter for Demons, played key role on the court for UW-Eau Claire

By Mike Ramczyk

Correspondent

For the second time in seven months, a former Burlington volleyball player won an NCAA women’s volleyball national championship.

After Maddie Berezowitz and the Kentucky Wildcats won the Division 1 national title in late April, Victoria Van Dan, who excelled as a setter for the Demons’ state tournament teams in 2019 and 2020, is still celebrating after the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Blugolds took home the NCAA D3 national title Saturday.

After not even receiving an honorable mention nod for all-conference as a starting setter for a Lady Demons squad that lost in the state championship match (Van Dan had match-high 47 assists) in 2020, Van Dan wasn’t heavily recruited out of high school.

So she decided to take things into her own hands, promoting her skills to prospective colleges thanks to highlight videos and networking.

Burlington High School graduate Victoria Van Dan celebrates with the Division 3 National Championship trophy recently after her team UW-Eau Claire won the division’s volleyball tournament. (Submitted photo)

A bit of an underdog that flew under the radar with big-name Burlington teammates like Sam Naber, Amanda Viel, Mackenzie Leach and Cam Lukenbill, Van Dan started at setter on varsity her junior and senior years.

She also starred for the Burlington girls soccer team, earning all-conference honors.

The versatile volleyball talent showed off her skills for the Blugolds as a true freshman this fall, playing in more than 100 sets including the nine-woman rotation during the national tournament.

Van Dan is a true example of how much hard work can pay off, and her career has just begun.

The UW-Eau Claire volleyball team captured the program’s first NCAA Division 3 National Championship this past weekend in St. Louis.

The Blugolds knocked off Calvin University (Michigan) in the title match on Saturday night to finish with a record of 35-3.

Standard Press Correspondent Mike Ramczyk caught up with Van Dan to talk about the historic accomplishment.

 

MR: Oh my god! How does it feel to win a NATTY?

      VVD: It feels surreal and at the same time very rewarding. All of the hours and preparation that went into each game has paid off.

MR: Has your life changed at all since winning? Any perks or celebrations?

VVD: Celebrations for sure. The after-game celebration was insane as was our arrival back in Eau Claire. The city was decked out in blue and yellow lights and alive with fans cheering us into town. Walking around campus on Monday, there was so much support and comments of congratulations from my peers and professors. Emails, texts and calls came in. Past coaches and teammates reached out. It feels really good knowing they have had my back and believed in me all these years.

MR: What was your role in the championship? Where did you play, and how do you feel you contributed?

VVD: On the court I came in the rotation and served for the middles and played defense. I feel I contributed to our success as I put pressure on the opponent by serving aggressively and working to get them out of system.

MR: What do you like about going to school at Eau Claire? What are you majoring in, and what do you want to be someday?

VVD: From the moment I began looking for schools, Eau Claire seemed like a home away from home. I love the campus and the professors as well as how engaged the student body is with every event that takes place. As of right now I am undecided, but the social sciences have really peaked my interest.

MR: Take us through your journey from Burlington to Eau Claire. How was the transition, and how did you personally play this season?

VVD: Being a well-rounded athlete has definitely helped me physically and mentally. I began playing sports when I was 4. It started with soccer and by age 10, volleyball and softball. I did the club circuit with each for a number of years and went national with soccer and volleyball.

The amount of training seems crazy now that I look back at it, but at the time, it was my life and all I’d ever known. Many nights I would have two practices in (both in Milwaukee) plus homework. It was not unusual to be pulling in the driveway at 10:45 p.m. on a weeknight or leave school Friday at 2:35 p.m. and drive through the night to play soccer in Washington D.C. or down south the next morning and when the tournament ended, head back home for the Monday morning bell.

The coaches and educators in the Burlington School District are amazing and have been a great support network and some of my biggest fans. Education is very important to me. I even graduated with perfect attendance for 12 straight years, which was not easy and many sacrifices were made to achieve this.

As for my transition, I had visited some schools here in the Midwest looking for the right fit (academically & athletically). By the start of senior year, I knew that I wanted to play volleyball in college and had talked with coaches and looked at their programs. I had a video conference with Coach Kim Wudi at UW-Eau Claire, toured the campus and met the team. I knew there was something extraordinary about her and the program. The connection I felt along with the vested relationships the players and coaches have for one another is very special and even being there as a guest, I could feel it immediately.

Personally, I’m in a good place. School is going well, and I’ve been healthy. I’ve been too busy to think about much other than my course work, training and competing. Having volleyball at the beginning of the academic year has helped me transition into college life. It also helped that my family came to as many games as possible.

MR: Why is the team so good? Why do you think you girls won it all?

VVD: Every player has fully bought into the training and philosophy of the program. We understand that every chance on the court is an opportunity to be better. It’s a trust in our training with an emphasis on developing the process over the outcome. Faith in each other is our strength. We are a family on and off the court.

MR: What stands out most about your time as a Demon?

VVD: Hard work is valued, and you are rewarded for your efforts. I value the relationships and friendships made over the years.

MR: Your mom says you’re a pretty darn good soccer player. Are you playing both at college?

VVR: Unfortunately, in the UW system, volleyball and soccer run the same season. I felt there was more growth to be had for me going the volleyball route, though I really miss soccer. If they were opposite seasons, heck yes – I’d be on the field, too. Come late May into June, you’ll catch me at BHS supporting the Demons. I do admit, I really miss the game.

MR: What’s up for the rest of the school year? What will you be doing?

VVR: I’ll continue to train in the offseason, study and get more involved around campus. I plan to join up with the collegiate 4-H group (and continue to be active in Racine County 4-H). I enjoy photography and art, so if time allows, I’d like to be creative.