Dani Drews Leads the Charge in Utah Volleyball


Kiffer Creveling

University of Utah Volleyball freshman outside hitter Dani Barton (1) celebrates after her kill in a set of matches vs. The Oregon Ducks at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, UT on Friday, Sept. 29, 2017 (Photo by Kiffer Creveling | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Leilani Gastelum

When Dani Drews isn’t walking her two dogs, watching Game of Thrones or hanging out with her husband, you can find her on the volleyball courts of the Huntsman Center working on her game to become the best player and teammate she can be. Outside hitter Drews is willing to put in whatever it takes to fulfill her own expectations.

“I grew up in a really competitive atmosphere. Even just a simple game night would turn into arguments,” Dani Drews said about her home life growing up. “Ever since I can remember, we’ve always had sports in our life and our parents have always talked to us about getting a scholarship for college. I’m really grateful for it because I’ve learned a lot of my work ethic through my parents and through my brothers.”

Drews grew up with a family full of athletes. Her father Paul Barton played football and baseball for the Utes and spent a year in the minors with the Toronto Blue Jays’ organization. Her mother, Mikki Barton, is a member of Utah’s Crimson Club Hall of Fame, was a two-time honorable mention All-American basketball player, 1993 Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year and a three-time first-team all-WAC basketball pick. Her mother also played two seasons of volleyball for the Utes and led the nation in blocks in 1993 while making the all-conference team. Drews also has two brothers who play on the Utah football team, senior offensive tackle, Jackson Barton and linebacker, Cody Barton.

University of Utah freshman outside hitter Dani Barton (1) spikes the ball over Purdue redshirt sophomore middle blocker Blake Mohler (17) in an NCAA Volleyball match vs. The Purdue Boilermakers at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah on Friday, Dec. 1, 2017
(Kiffer Creveling | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

“I have always said that my children have had a very charmed life,” Drew’s mother Mikki Barton said. “Our family loves to play, whether it be on the beach of California, cliff jumping at Lake Powell, lizard hunting and hiking in St George, vacations in Mexico, camping in Idaho or riding horses at our ranch in Duchesne. But with that adventure comes the expectation to work hard in their sports, training, school work, chores at home, go to church and to do what their parents ask. Dani found joy in all of it. She has always been our most pleasant child, and she has a goofy side to her like her father. It was also nice to have another little mama around when her brothers acted like wild squirrels.”

Drews has gained a lot of sports influence from her family but has also had to put in her share of hard work to be able to be where she is today, leading the Utah volleyball team. Her work ethic is something that her coach and teammates admire and through her example of determination she has taken charge in leading this year’s newer class.

“Dani influences [her teammates] by her work ethic,” Head Coach Beth Launiere said. “They respect her work ethic and they know what they’re going to get from her every day in practice.”

Growing up, Drews has looked up to her older brothers, watching them work hard and achieve their goals of playing on the Utah football team and pushing through adversity. Drews knows how important it is to be diligent and committed to achieving her own goals.

University of Utah Volleyball senior middle blocker Tawnee Luafalemana (20) and freshman outside hitter Dani Barton (1) line up before a serve in a set of matches vs. The Oregon Ducks at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, UT on Friday, Sept. 29, 2017
(Photo by Kiffer Creveling | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

“I’m really just a naturally competitive person. I was raised in a really competitive family as well, so for me it’s wanting to win and also just wanting to play my best,” Drews says about what motivates her to work hard. “Having my team there to always have my back and hold me accountable for stuff really motivates me as well.”

Drews is a natural-born leader and her teammates and family agree that she is someone who can bring a team together and push others through her example as not only a volleyball player but as a person.

“You know when she enters a room because you are drawn to her happy smile, bubbly personality and ability to be able to converse with anyone. She is very inclusive and wants to draw everyone into her world. Her maturity, confidence and pleasant personality helps her be a natural leader. Her competitive nature motivates her to work hard to stay ahead of everyone, and in turn that helps motivate others to do the same,” Mikki Barton said.

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