By: KASEY TYRING
Rachel Vick has played every game in the three years she’s been a part of Eastern’s volleyball team. Going into her fourth and final season, Vick hopes to grow the young team, gets some W’s on the schedule and become the top player in the conference. While Vick admits some of the goals are lofty, they’re not at all unattainable.
Last year Vick finished fourth overall in Ohio Valley Conference hitting average and had a career-high 20 kills in a single game against Jacksonville State. And her best season isn’t behind her, Vick said. Especially since she was picked to be Preseason All-Conference, a list of stand-out players for the year.
“It was really exciting for me,” Vick said. “I have my goals set to be on the All-Conference team for the OVC, and to have a high hitting-percentage this year; one of the higher percentages in the conference would be awesome…OVC player of the year is a lofty goal, but I’m not going to rule anything out. I’m going to keep working…If I can reach for that, then maybe I can accomplish some of the other goals as well.”
Becoming OVC Player of the Year requires a great year for the team; so great they’ll have to win the conference or have a stand-out season, and as for Vick, she’ll have to prove to the OVC coaches that she’s worthy of the title.
“I would just have to prove in every game that I deserve it, through my stats and the way I play, I would just have to prove it every single game,” Vick said.
The team starts the competitive season by competing in four non-conference tournaments before entering OVC play. So far, they’ve yet to win a game, but Vick says the young team uses the time to prepare for conference games.
“Hopefully during conference play we will be able to turn things around a little bit,” Vick said.”
During the next two weekends, Eastern will be competing in tournaments with bigger competition, including top schools such as Penn State: last year’s national champions. Facing these big-name competitors sets the team up for its conference schedule.
“It’s an awesome experience [playing Penn State],” Vick said. “To push ourselves and enter that match with a positive attitude and be like ‘we have nothing to lose, let’s see what we can do against teams like that.”
A goal she has for the team is to develop the young players. Her role as a seasoned player is to make them feel confident playing at the college level, Vick said.
“As a freshman you’re thrown in really quickly and it’s hard to realize you can make an impact on the court even though you’re a younger player,” Vick said. “My role is to help them not feel afraid to take risks on the court and to be confident in themselves that they can contribute right away.”
Vick started playing volleyball as a fourth-grader and never stopped. Once she saw a college game in the eighth grade she was sold on the sport and wanted to be a college player. In high school she played club ball and was scouted by Laurie Duncan, Eastern’s head volleyball coach, her junior year.
Besides sports, Vick has a big interest in the arts. She has played piano since the second grade, and started playing around with the guitar in the past year. She also dabbles in painting and drawing.
“It’s nice to step away from the sports-world a little bit and dive into something else,” Vick said.
She’ll use these hobbies in the future, possibly when she practices Occupational Therapy. Vick said she is interested in therapeutic art.
Entering her final season, Vick is nearing the close of her competitive volleyball career. She said the aspect she’ll miss most is being a part of a team.
“I’ve been on a team since I was eight years old,” Vick said. “And having the support system that will back you up and having those deep connections that you can’t get with just a normal classmate or friend…your bonds are really strong, being a part of it is gonna be hard to let go of.”
Tournament play continues this weekend as the team competes in the Shamrock Invitational at Notre Dame.
Conference play begins Sep. 25 at Eastern against Belmont University.