Sitarz takes the court by storm

Softball player turned to volleyball


Matthew Sun/Talon

On an ordinary Tuesday practice, Payton dives to save a ball from a sandy embrace. Payton’s athleticism allowed her to quickly adjust to her new sport

Payton Sitarz spent an afternoon at the North Ranch Playfield, hitting a leather volleyball over a wide net. Occasionally, the ball bounced and came to a gentle stop on the spring-sweet grass.

A former softball player of 10 years, Sitarz was practicing in a square box of sand with a seven-foot, four and one-eighth inch net smack in the middle. Sitarz was clad in a charcoal outfit, practicing to grow her skills and become a valuable player of the Oak Park High School volleyball team.

“Payton is … very fun. She’s spunky, she’s a really hard worker and she loves volleyball,” Frosh-Soph Head Coach Paris Dosch said while laughing.

Sitarz stopped playing softball when she was about 12-years-old, and knew her next commitment would be directed toward volleyball. Despite being nervous about ‘throwing her talents’ away, she felt she could commit to her decision after watching her first volleyball game.

“After [softball] practice, I would go home and turn on my TV and watch college volleyball games and I used to think how fun that must’ve been. And then, I was thinking about how, ‘It’s not too late to start,’” Sitarz said.

Sitarz points to an exhaustive schedule and stress as the reason she decided to quit softball.

“I was on a team and we would practice like six days a week for like three hours, even on school days. I would be stressed with practice and homework … and it was just a lot,” Sitarz said. “I just kind of lost passion for it.”

The amount of experience playing one sport translated into her learning of another.

“Payton is very athletic. I think she has a lot of talent and amazing volleyball abilities for not playing for super long,” Dosch said.

Though, it’s not just Payton’s athleticism that makes her adjust effortlessly to the demands of volleyball. Coach Dosch finds that compliance and change come quite naturally to her.

“She’s a really fast learner. She’s very coachable. So, if I tell her to do something she’ll automatically try to implement it in whatever she’s doing,” Dosch said.

While practicing drills, Sitarz aggressively chases the ball, diving to direct the ball up and away from the pearly sand. There was a noticeable type of unrefined energy that played within her. All this passion and all this skill originating only from summer volleyball conditioning in 2019.

“If I’m bored or something, I usually grab a volleyball and just go outside and play with it. [I play] mostly just volleyball,” Sitarz said. “I think [the season] is going to be so fun. All the girls and I were talking about how excited we were.”

Payton’s passion didn’t die with softball; in her usual light-heartedness, volleyball took priority, even when her first season has inevitably been canceled due to COVID-19.

“It is difficult to feel motivated because I know I have the option to lay in my bed for hours at a time but I get up anyway and take ten minutes out of my life to do my drills,” Sitarz wrote to the Talon.

From the relief she finds in practicing her skills to the caution of staying home, Sitarz still thinks of her excitement for upcoming seasons.

“I am not so anxious to go back when volleyball starts but more excited because right now I am not able to do something that I love to do with the people I consider part of my family,” Sitarz wrote.