A big personality who played with a lot of emotion and determination – that is how many Grizzly Volleyball fans remember 6-foot outside hitter Anna Dmowska, one of the key players in two of the team’s most successful seasons.
“It was obvious how she was feeling because she, more than any other player, wore her heart on her sleeve,” said Missouri State University-West Plains Head Volleyball Coach Paula Wiedemann, who was the assistant coach during Dmowska’s tenure with the team from 2002-2004. “She loved playing the game, and she could light up the court with her smile and with her play. She was a powerful attacker, and over the two years she played for us, she made quite an impact.”
A native of Warsaw, Poland, who helped lead her RKS Skra-Warszawa high school team to the city championship, Dmoswka was living in Philadelphia, Pa., when she was recruited to the Grizzlies. “Anna contacted us by e-mail and sent us a DVD of her in a local YMCA gym,” Wiedemann recalled. “It was just her and another girl, but you could tell immediately how powerful she was as a player. She had a great combination of size, the ability to move, and great ball control.”
Dmowska showed her talents early in her freshman season when she led the Grizzlies in kills (54) during the team’s first outing at the Illinois Central College Invitational. The next weekend, she played an integral role in the team’s outside attack at the Utah Valley State College Invitational and helped guide the Grizzlies to a 7-1 record at the event. She continued to consistently play at a high level throughout the season, complimenting the efforts of fellow Grizzly Hall of Fame honorees Edna Chumo, Roselidah Obunaga and Juliana Nogueira, and eventually helped the Grizzlies capture their fourth consecutive Region 16 championship and their fourth berth to the NJCAA Division I Women’s National Volleyball Championship.
One of the most memorable matches of that championship came in the second round when the Grizzlies met Western Nebraska Community College in a five-game, two-plus-hour thriller. Several Grizzlies stepped up at different times to keep the team in the match, but Dmowska, who had struggled early on, made the difference in the fifth game when she “went into the zone” and scored several successive points to lift the Grizzlies over the hump and secure a 30-25, 30-26, 18-30, 27-30, 15-11 victory. The Grizzlies went on to place second in the tournament, and Dmowska, who had earned first-team All-Region 16 honors earlier in the season, received all-tournament team honors for the national event.
Dmowska took the confidence she developed during her freshman season and built on her successes during her sophomore year, helping guide the Grizzlies to their best ever start at that time with 19 consecutive wins. Later in the year when the team struggled through a mid-season slump, she carried the load with consistent double-digit kill performances and efficient attacking percentages, earning the praise of then head coach Trish Kissiar-Knight as someone who was “playing smart and with a lot of desire.”
She proved she was just as good in the backcourt as she was at the net when she led the team in digs (nine) against Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College on Sept. 16, 2003, and she earned all-tournament team honors in the Physical Therapy Specialists Clinic Tournament of Champions for a performance that included 39 kills, six blocks (four solos), two aces and an attacking percentage of .311.
Dmowska’s efforts helped the Grizzlies win their fifth consecutive Region 16 championship and another berth to the national championship, where they picked up one of the program’s most memorable victories – a 30-27, 22-30, 19-30, 30-25, 15-8 semifinal win over defending national champion Miami-Dade College. “Never before or after has winning tasted this sweet,” she recalled. “For the first time in school history, we defeated them, and it happened on our home court. There was no happier moment in my whole volleyball career. We fought with all we had, and every fan in the gym stood, screaming and clapping.”
“One of the most memorable swings in our program was when Anna had a huge kill against Miami-Dade in the semifinal match in 2003,” Wiedemann added. “Earlier in the game, she collided with another player and was a little woozy, so Trish took her out. Anna wasn’t happy at all about it, so needless to say, she got back in there and made the most of it. When she had that huge kill, it was a swing that, in my mind, made the statement that we were not going to lose that match. We cruised from there into the fifth game and won it easily.”
Dmowska’s efforts helped the Grizzlies pick up another second-place trophy in the national tournament, and once again, she earned all-tournament team honors. She also was named a second-team NJCAA All-American following the tournament.
Dmowska’s impact on the Grizzly Volleyball program can be seen in her statistics: 923 career kills (seventh all time), 2,195 career attacking attempts (fifth all time), a career attacking percentage of .282 (14th all time among all attackers and 11th all time among outside attackers), and 1,136 career points earned (seventh all time).
She graduated from Missouri State-West Plains with an Associate of Arts in General Studies degree in May 2004 and transferred to Florida International University in Miami, where she played volleyball for the Panthers in the Sun Belt Conference. During her tenure there, the team went from a 3-23 season record in 2004 to a 15-13 season record in 2005. She lettered in the sport both seasons, was named to the FIU Wyndham Hotels All-Tournament team, and earned the Sun Belt Conference’s Sportsmanship Award in 2004. She finished her career at FIU fourth all-time in kills per game with 3.43.
Dmowska graduated from FIU in 2006 with a Bachelor of Science in Recreational Therapy degree and is now attending NewCourtland School of Practical Nursing in Philadelphia, Pa. “I want to become an RN, a loving wife and a mother,” she said of her future plans. “I hope to live in a friendly community, preferably on one of the smaller of the Virgin Islands.”
But she’ll always have fond memories of West Plains and the university. “My recruiting trip to West Plains was the first time I ever went somewhere where I immediately felt like part of a family. This feeling lasted throughout the two years I spent there. My host parents, Gene and Nancy Poppe, were loving and amazingly supportive of me both on and off the court. That feeling of total acceptance was echoed during those nights our team spent in Coach Knight’s cabin and at Paula’s house where we were always welcomed as if we were a part of their family. “The friendships I made in West Plains have stayed with me long beyond my college career. Each time I return, I feel a sense of homecoming and belonging greater than I could have ever imagined. I spent some of the most challenging, and therefore, happiest times of my life there.”