Van de Mortel To Play In Danish VolleyLiga
SPOKANE, Wash. - Denise Van de Mortel could not stay away from the volleyball for long. The recent Gonzaga University graduate has taken an opportunity to play overseas for Frederiksberg Volley in Copenhagen, Denmark, this fall.
"Last summer and this past January I played through an agency on a developmental team," Van de Mortel said. "As a part of a developmental team, we played in China last summer and in Austria, Slovenia, Italy and Croatia in January. The Denmark national coach saw me play and recommended me for the team. Everything pretty much came together after that."
Van de Mortel had other offers to play elsewhere, but knew playing in Copenhagen was the best fit. The chance to play in the highest professional league in Denmark, called the Danish VolleyLiga, along with some family ties to the area made the decision easy.
"I have some family in Holland and my dad was born over there. The area seemed like a place I would like and fit with the most. Overall, the team and area was the most appealing fit for me. It will be perfect for my first season playing overseas," Van de Mortel said.
Frederiksberg Volley is coached by Lars Engell who will be in his second year of coaching the team. He previously held the head coaching position for another Danish VolleyLiga team and has more than 10 years experience coaching on a higher level.
The former Bulldog standout will be joining a young and diverse team in Copenhagen. The average age of the team is 23-years-old and is made up of 14 players from the United States, the Faroe Island and Denmark.
"I know the team is trying to improve and that is what I am always trying to do when I play for a team. It is exciting to know they are a part of the top eight teams in Denmark that compete for a national title. We have a chance to compete for it," Van de Mortel said.
The action kicks off early in September as Frederiksberg Volley opens for training camp, which will be followed up by tournaments in Sweden and Denmark. Van de Mortel will see action as a setter during the 21-match season.
Frederiksberg's best league finish has been fourth. The top four teams qualify for the Danish Championship Tournament in March, and Van de Mortel hopes to be a part of that challenge.
"I am very proud of, and quite excited for, Denise. Over the past two years, in addition to her involvement at GU, she's taken advantage of an opportunity to participate in an open tryout for the USA Women's National Team at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. She's also experienced multiple international competitions with high level USA teams in both Europe and Asia. I think the natural evolution of elite players is to continue to 'seek the next opportunity' and Denise is certainly living that paradigm. She has shown a steady ability to elevate her game as needed, and I would expect the coaches and players in Copenhagen will enjoy her competitive leadership style as they improve their program," Gonzaga head coach Dave Gantt said.
Even though she is faced with a new team, a new culture and a new country, Van de Mortel believes her time at Gonzaga prepared her for any challenge.
"With the help of the current coaching staff, I am more than prepared to take on something like this. They have given me all the tools I need to step outside of Gonzaga and face new situations and experiences. My coaches have given me the confidence to play outside of our gym," Van de Mortel said.
During her senior year as a Zag, Van de Mortel was named West Coast Conference honorable mention and led the team in assists (989) and assists per set (9.42). She finished her Bulldog career with 4002 assists and 8.93 assists per set.