Senior Spring: Sara Lindquist ’18 excels both on and off the court
Sara Lindquist ‘18 recorded a total of 377 kills within her Dartmouth career.
After graduating a record eight seniors last year, the women’s volleyball program appeared to be in a rebuilding year for the 2017-18 season. However, co-captain Sara Lindquist’s ’18 selflessness in her court positions and leadership has been an asset to the team. Going into this season, all eyes were on the two seniors, Lindquist and Morgan Dressel ’18, as well as co-captains Zoe Leonard ’19 and Maddy Schoenberger ’20, to see how the team would respond to the transition, as the team added six first-years and one sophomore transfer to an already young returning roster.
While this season’s spectators saw new names leading the team, the most notable player that emerged as a leader was Lindquist. The senior led the team in kills, recording a career high of 185 — almost matching her 192 kills from the last three years combined. She also ranked fourth on the team for 34 blocking assists and 40 total blocks. With Lindquist’s breakout final season, the Big Green improved from its previous season record of 9-16 overall, 2-12 in conference play and an eighth place finish in the Ivy League to an overall record of 10-13, 6-8 in conference and a sixth place ranking in the League.
Lindquist attributes her final season performance to the culmination of her four year Big Green volleyball experience. Lindquist had an impressive freshman season under former coach Erin Lindsey, where she recorded 83 kills, 54 digs and 23 total blocks within the 56 sets she played. Freshman year, however, was an adjustment period, as Lindquist took time to acclimate not only to the type of play, the team, the coaches and their coaching style, but also to being at a new school. She struggled toward the end of her freshman year and throughout her sophomore year, due to recurring back issues, which led her to sit out her sophomore season. While disappointed in not being able to contribute to her team, Lindquist said her injury allowed her to take on a larger support role and have a different angle into the team’s needs.
“Not being able to do something that you love and you know, it makes you really think about how blessed you are to have that sport when you have it momentarily taken away from you,” she said. “I think [the injury] was not fun at the time but I wouldn’t take it back just because it refined my gratitude for the sport and the girls on the team.”
In addition to dealing with back injuries early in her career, Lindquist returned right before the team underwent a coaching change with head coach Gilad Doron, assistant coach Eyal Zimet and then-assistant Tara Hittle. Doron found the transition difficult because the coaching staff only had a short amount of time to learn everyone’s abilities and gauge what positions would suit them best. However, Doron noted that Lindquist is a “selfless” person and a flexible player because she is not solely focused on her own statistics and is willing to do anything to meet the team’s needs.
“When you look at her career as a whole, you wouldn’t see her with ‘all-time’ stats, but I think Sara will always be someone who will be a great teammate, work as hard as she can and always [put her team] first versus her own individual goals [and] that’s really hard to find these days,” Doron said. “She always has this great energy around her that you never know if it’s a good day or bad day for her. I think that’s a strength that when you’re in a team concept; a lot of times when you have positive people around you, you tend to be aspired to work harder and to stay on course versus fall into negativity and selfishness.”
Lindquist noted that the coaching staff led by Doron were incredible motivators and great people, especially when Lindquist was voted as one of three co-captains and the only senior of the three.
“[The coaching staff] rallied our team in a really incredible way my junior year, and especially going into my senior year I remember my coach just being like, ‘Sara go out there, just go play, don’t think about it. You’re leading the team,’” Lindquist said. “I was trying to figure out how to play well and lead but also trying to be cognizant of motivating the team. I just really appreciated my coaches being like, ‘Sara, go play. That’s the best way you can lead this team, by just going and playing your little heart out and having fun and letting loose.’ So I think that was really a catalyst for me my senior year.”
Schoenberger found that Lindquist’s level-headed and confident personality translated well onto the court, making her a more effective player and leader.
“[Lindquist] wasn’t someone who necessarily had to mold herself into a leader role,” Schoenberger said. “She automatically demands the respect of the room and she doesn’t try to do that. When you start with that baseline of confidence in her fundamental being, it’s really easy to follow her example.”
Schoenberger added that Lindquist’s “statistical boom” went hand in hand with her newfound attitude that came with being one of two seniors on the team.
“[Lindquist] always had a sense of purpose but I think the fact that her career was ending, she went out with this new attitude that, ‘I have nothing to lose. I’m going to give it everything I have. I’m going to work hard for my teammates,’ and that was her philosophy going into this season,” Schoenberger said.
While Lindquist has been a standout on the court this season, she was a relatively late-comer to volleyball and had instead played basketball and soccer throughout her youth.
“I think my first year of playing volleyball was seventh grade on the middle school team because people were like, ‘You’re tall, you should try this sport,’ and I was like, ‘Okay!’” Lindquist said. “I don’t think I seriously started playing until my freshman year of high school because that’s when I stopped playing basketball.”
Although she was new to the sport, Lindquist placed on her high school’s varsity team as a freshman. It was there that she learned more about the fundamental skills and nuances of volleyball.
“It helped that her teammates were so welcoming and supportive of her,” Juli and Tom Lindquist, Sara’s parents, wrote in an email. “She was able to make mistakes as she learned the game. By her senior year, she was team captain and led her team to win the first volleyball state championship in her high school’s history.”
Her experience in high school solidified her desire to go on to the collegiate level, as she realized volleyball was not something she was quite ready to say goodbye to. Starting her sophomore year of high school, Lindquist underwent recruiting and was excited by all of the opportunities volleyball provided. She was deciding between offers from Dartmouth, Harvard University, Northwestern University and a walk-on spot at Stanford University.
“All four of those [schools] were really awesome opportunities, great girls, great schools, but there was just something about Dartmouth I just couldn’t shake,” Lindquist said. “Honestly, the thing about Dartmouth was just the sense of community I felt immediately when I walked on campus. Everyone was just so excited about being there and you could just tell — it was electric.”
Lindquist’s parents added that the Ivy League was a better choice for her because of her interests in academics, music, sorority life and community service. Dartmouth specifically gave Lindquist a close knit community and easy access to the outdoors.
“Sara’s two older brothers were both Division I athletes and pursued their sport in the [Pacific-12 Conference],” her parents wrote.
One brother was a pitcher on the Stanford baseball team and another was a quarterback at the University of Washington. Lindquist’s parents found that athletics at these schools were very time consuming and limited Lindquist’s brothers’ abilities to pursue other interests, which was something that was important to Sara.
“While she loved her sport, she had additional interests she wanted to pursue, so the Ivy League was a perfect fit for her. She wasn’t owned by her sport, yet could still compete at a high level,” her parents added.
Lindquist has excelled not only on the court but also in the classroom as she earned, alongside nine other Dartmouth student-athletes, the Academic All-Ivy recognition for the 2017 fall season. To qualify for a spot on the conference’s top academic team in a season, a student-athlete must make a major contribution to their team in addition to maintaining at least a 3.0 grade point average. In addition to volleyball, Lindquist, a Geography major, maintains a 3.90 GPA, as of Fall 2017. She is involved with the Decibelles, Dartmouth’s oldest all-female a cappella group; Chi Delta sorority; and a women’s volleyball bible study group she started with a close friend. Lindquist has also previously been involved with Dartmouth Christian Union and a handful of other organizations for a short period of time.
With the season over, Lindquist has enjoyed being able to more fully participate in her other activities, specifically with her a cappella group and sorority. As for the future, a lot is still up in the air.
“I’ve definitely considered the idea of continuing volleyball [post-graduation] but I think at this point I’m deciding to take a break,” Lindquist said. “It’s hard to say goodbye to a sport that I love [but right now] I’m focusing on my job search back on the West Coast.”
Lindquist hopes to go to graduate school at some point and is looking for ways to continue her music career as well.