First-year Daniel Fabikovic Brings International Experience to Men’s Volleyball

The Czech Republic native started playing club volleyball at nine years old.

With parents who both played professional volleyball — including a mother who still works as a coach — it was only natural for men’s volleyball first-year outside hitter Daniel Fabikovic to follow in his parent’s footsteps and pick up a volleyball.

The Czech Republic native said he started playing club volleyball when he was nine years old, but his training at home started prior to playing on an official team. 

Before coming to Loyola, Fabikovic played for a Czech Republic national team for four years. Fabikovic said this experience allowed him to hone his skills against top competitors from many different countries.

He further developed his skill set playing for the Czech Republic’s U18 national volleyball team in 2020. With this team, Fabikovic went to the European championship and left with the silver medal. 

Fabikovic said playing against high levels of competition from countries such as Italy, France and Poland helped him deal with the pressure of playing against high levels of competition 

“There’s a lot of expectations, you know, on the national stage — just playing under big pressure, big matches,” Fabikovic said. 

Fellow first-year outside hitter Jake Read said Fabikovic’s experience playing in the Czech Republic shows in his game playing at Loyola.

“Coming from the Czech Republic and having that experience against — and big matches against — national teams, he’s got experience,” Read said. “He knows what to do and how to win.”

Fabikovic said although he always wanted to continue playing volleyball after high school, there aren’t many volleyball options in higher education in the Czech Republic.

To remedy this, Fabikovic said his dad introduced him to the option to come to the United States and continue playing volleyball collegiately. In his search for colleges, Loyola became a promising option.

“I’ve always been interested in the U.S. and, you know, it seemed like a great option,” Fabikovic said. “Also, like, the facilities here are amazing, you know. Chicago’s a great city and when I came here on a visit two years ago, I loved everything about it, it was a no brainer.”

Although Fabikovic had already committed to the program before head coach John Hawks took over, Hawks said he had to rely on videos of Fabikovic playing and conversations with him to make a decision about Fabikovic’s role on the team. 

I didn’t get out there to see him play but watching more videos, having a talk with him, he’s a mature kid with a very mature style of play,” Hawks said. “I trusted my gut and I went with it and I’m very happy that I did.”

Hawks said Fabikovic has good ball control outside, great size, good range attacking and good pace on the ball. Hawks said these skills have led Fabikovic to earn every bit of playing time he’s received thus far.

Even with the language barrier — which Fabikovic said remains difficult at times — he said his teammates and the coaching staff have always been patient with him. Whether it be helping him learn the plays or just supporting him during games, Fabikovic said he’s grateful for the support he receives. 

“I feel like in Europe, you know, he played the game a little bit differently than we do in the United States, and I feel like we’re giving him a lot of things that he can get better at that can enhance his game and take it to the next level,” Hawks said.

Fabikvic said one of his goals for this season was to make his way into the starting lineup — a goal he has already accomplished. 

At Loyola, Fabikovic has reached 89 kills and 103 points, the second most of the team in both categories behind redshirt third-year Parker Van Buren.

After starting conference play Feb 1 at Ball State, Fabikovic said he thinks the team was able to start on a good foot this year.

“We won at Hawaii,” Fabikovic said. “That was really nice, you know. Kind of, I think showed that we have a lot of potential, you know, as a team.”

As the season continues, Fabikovic said he hopes they are able to win the MIVA championship and eventually advance to the NCAA Tournament.

“I still think that we will be at the top of MIVA this year,” Fabikovic said. “We’ll see, we’ll see how that goes, because it’s really competitive now, which is nice for the sport.”

As a teammate, Read says Fabikovic balances being a great teammate and person to be around alongside being a strong competitor, willing to do all he can in order to win.

“Whether he messes up or someone else messes up, he’s always one of the first to pick up a teammate and tell them, ‘Next play, next ball,’” Read said. “He just cares about winning and he wants us to stay connected as a team and just to stay together.”

Hawks echoed this sentiment and said Fabikovic gets along with his teammates incredibly. He said Fabikovic is always laughing with the whole team, making the whole team better from his presence alone. 

Off the court, Fabikovic is an avid Wii player, specializing in Super Mario Brothers and Wii Sports — games he deemed to be classics. 

“I put a lot of hours in that when I was younger,” Fabikovic said. “Nobody can beat me in that.”

Fabikovic said he usually plays the Wii with his teammates, specifically the fellow first-years. Fabikovic said the Wii is a way they relax as a team and get their minds away from volleyball with the little amount of free time they have during the season. 

Read reiterated Fabikovic’s talent at the Wii, saying it’s just another thing Fabikovic excels at.

“He’s just an athlete and so he is just really good at a lot of things,” Read said. “And that’s just another thing that he’s really good at, which is playing Wii, just whether that’s by himself or with all of us.”

Fabikovic’s talent doesn’t stop at volleyball and Wii — Despite being 6’6’’, Fabikovic said over the summer he spent two weeks with his dad learning how to do a backflip. 

Fabikovic and the Ramblers will return to Gentile Arena to play the Ohio State Buckeyes Feb. 9 starting at 7 p.m. and streaming on NBC Chicago Sports.

Featured image by Allison Treanor | The Phoenix

Amara Bullard

Amara Bullard