You might find it weird to hear the Canadian National Anthem, “O Canada,” coming from the bench of the Loyola women’s volleyball team (10-14, 5-6). You’ll hear it because one Rambler is inspiring unexpected Canadian patriotism in Gentile Arena.
Her name is Gabi Maciagowski, and she is a sophomore outside hitter from Ontario, Canada. Maciagowski has been a key player in the Ramblers’ lineup, as she’s second to only senior Morgan Reardon in kills and points so far this season.
Maciagowski said she loves it when her teammates sing her country’s national anthem. She said the other players didn’t tell her about their plans to sing it before they did the first time, so she started laughing on the court. She said she still smiles every time her teammates belt out the tune.
Maciagowski said playing volleyball in the United States is similar to playing in Canada, but there are some differences between the two countries’ playing styles. One of the differences, Maciagowski said, is how the universities view the athletes.
“There’s a larger support, school-wise, [on athletics] here,” said Maciagowski. “Back home, everyone’s focused on academics. It’s the same thing here, but you don’t see as many people coming out to games [in Canada] as you do here [at Loyola].”
Maciagowski said she got her start in volleyball in junior high, when she went to a park with her friend and they volleyed with one another. From there, Maciagowski went on to play for her team at school and later joined a club volleyball team. Those experiences brought her to Loyola.
Head coach Chris Muscat said Maciagowski is the first international athlete he has coached since he began coaching at Loyola six years ago. He said Maciagowski fits in well with the team and is a key player.
“Gabi has been in a program that had a high expectation for her,” said Muscat. “Transitioning into Loyola, we don’t coach her any differently. She’s been very coachable.”
Prior to committing to play volleyball at Loyola, Maciagowski was committed to the University of Buffalo, but she decided to consider other universities after the departure of Buffalo’s head coach, who recruited her.
Muscat said the only different aspect about recruiting a Canadian-born player versus an American one was traveling to the Great White North to see Maciagowski play. He said visiting Canada was necessary for evaluating where she’d fit into the program and showing Loyola’s interest in her.
“Other than having to go through a few customs and having to get out to Canada a little bit more, the recruiting process was still the same,” said Muscat.
Maciagowski said her club team prior to college would come down to the United States to play tournaments, which is how Muscat discovered her.
The hardest part about going to college at Loyola, Maciagowski said, is being farther away from home than her teammates are. She said her teammates and their families are very welcoming, though, and they often take her in. One of Maciagowski’s teammates invited her over to her home to have a home-cooked meal over fall break because the players had to be near campus to practice. As the players on the women’s volleyball team travel around the country, Maciagowski said they try to make her feel at home.
Maciagowski and the rest of the team will travel to Carbondale, Illinois, on Oct. 28 to take on Southern Illinois University.