Former phenom turns professional
When Lucy Charuk got the call that she had been nominated as Third Team All-American, she was informed a short trip to San Antonio for the awards banquet would take place over the winter holiday.
Less than a month later, as Charuk accepted her honor from the American Volleyball Coaches Association, an offer to leave the University of Houston presented itself.
“I ended up talking to one of Coach (Molly Alvey’s) friends, and the idea of starting my professional career in January came up,” Charuk said. “Strangely enough, there was a job open in Croatia to start the year.”
A spot for the Croatian A League squad Split 1700 — one that would require Charuk to postpone her final semester at UH— needed an immediate answer. The chance to start her professional career would not be guaranteed in the summer, and given that her collegiate career was finished, there was little that held Charuk in Houston.
“When the season ended at UH, I was somewhat disappointed with how it finished,” Charuk said. “We had high expectations for that team, and we followed them through for the first half of the season, but we couldn’t quite pull through. Before the offer came up, I had made the decision to stay in Houston over the spring, but when I got the invite, I couldn’t turn it down.”
Unlike her leading role at UH, a starting position was not assured when Charuk arrived in Croatia. The competition, described by Charuk as “very similar to C-USA,” was top heavy, much like at the collegiate level.
“The top seven or eight teams were a small step up from C-USA level, but the bottom half was a lot less competitive,” she said. “But I went in having to earn my starting position, like anyone else.”
After averaging just under 1.5 blocks per set in her senior year at UH, Charuk came in hoping to utilize her speed and length at net to help the struggling Split 1700.
In her first action as a professional, she made a splash, blocking several key balls on the way to the team’s first victory with her on the front line.
“I tried to make a good impression right away,” Charuk said. “That first night I put up some big blocks, and that’s just what they were needing.”
Looking forward, her time in Croatia will be the stepping-stone to what Charuk hopes is a long, productive professional volleyball career. Within five years, her goal is to move on from Split 1700 and join an Italian 2 A league, where she will split time between Italy and her home in Canada.
“I hope this can be a career for me,” she said “Hopefully I left some leadership behind, and stuff just gets bigger and better for the school and myself.”