Hard work is paying off for Vojik

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By CHRIS PUMMER

Despite her softball career moving into the fast lane at DePaul University, former Riverside-Brookfield High School standout Sandy Vojik has had no trouble getting up to speed.

In fact, with a successful season under her belt that has coach Eugene Lenti penciling her into next year's opening-day lineup, some might say Vojik is riding in the passing lane.

"As my dad likes to put it, it's like going from driving along a side road in a village to driving on the expressway," said Vojik of the transition to college softball. "Girls will take a base on you if you're not paying attention, and the pitchers aren't just throwers, they're pitchers, too. Everything is just faster. But I was ready for the next step."

That next step meant working her way into the Blue Demons' starting lineup, which she did a quarter of the way into last season. Vojik would eventually start 43 games for the College World Series-bound DePaul team, working her way from the outfield back to her natural position of second base by season's end.

Vojik broke into the lineup in time to finish with the fourth-best batting average on the team (.277) behind three senior teammates. And her work all over the field earned her a first-team All-Conference USA selection as a utility player.

That performance, among others, is what pushed DePaul to a 45-21 overall record and a fourth consecutive Conference USA Tournament title.

"I think she's got as much upside as any ballplayer we've had," Lenti said. "She has great physical skills. She's strong, quick and fast. She's a hard worker. We thought she had a great year. She came along and got better as the year went along. She's very devoted to the team and works very hard.

"She'll definitely be a part of the team that' we're counting on next year. With the year she had, we think she can only get better. We think she'll get better by leaps and bounds."

Despite all of her natural ability, the secret to Vojik's success has always started and ended with her drive to work hard.

Vojik began playing softball in the Riverside Little League before joining a travel softball team when she was 12 years old. Several summers on the field, more winters in the gym, plus extra practice sessions with her brother Ron Jr., would help make her a successful four-year varsity starter for the RB softball team.

"She was one of those girls that always worked hard," said Ron Vojik Sr., Sandy's father and hitting coach while she was with the Lyons Township Blazers.

"When you're out there in 100-degree heat, and you have three games to play, it takes a special kind of individual to go out for every game and give it your all. And it was never unusual for her to be up at 5:30 in the morning to go to the gym. She just always worked hard."

Vojik's hard work also paid of for RB, as the Bulldogs would win three straight Suburban Prairie Conference titles with her in the fold. Vojik also collected her own string of accomplishments, including setting school records for season batting average (.536) and triples in a season (9). She was a four-time all SPC selection, and the conference MVP her senior season.

A number of schools showed interest in Vojik during her long high school run, but when DePaul began scouting her as a sophomore, it was almost like a dream come true.

"I wanted to go there since I was in about the seventh grade," Vojik said. "They were in the College World Series in 1999 and 2000, but before that I went to a DePaul camp and got to meet a lot of their players and thought it was a great college setting. Ever since then I wanted to go there."

Getting there was one thing, but Vojik also proved yet again that she wasn't afraid of hard work, showing as much enthusiasm as possible for things like four-hour practices, weight training and conditioning, and only having enough time left over to do homework.

"People asked if it was harder than I expected, but I tell them no," Vojik said. "I knew it was going to be a lot of hard work, but I kept working hard in high school, so that wasn't that big of an adjustment."

"I think her best attribute as a player is that she works hard," Lenti said. "That's why she's really always going to be successful. She has the physical skills and she never stops working."

Vojik says that if there was one aspect she did have to adjust to, it was being mentally involved in every play of every game, and staying ahead of the competition from other teammates.

"That competition is important," she said. "In high school, when you don't have to worry about your starting position, you can get lackadaisical. But here, if I'm not on top of my game, the coaches will really push me and let me know about it."

But Vojik seems capable of pushing herself. Now that the college season is over, she's still on the softball field for the Lemont Rockers travel team.

Vojik's also ready to help DePaul make another World Series push, and both she and Lenti think that it will be likely.

"You're always trying to build on what you did the year before," Lenti said. "We gained valuable experience, but we won't surprise anyone next year. Our goal is to keep playing hard, keep playing smart and have some fun along the way."

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