Four years at the same place with the same people has the inevitable effect of changing one’s life. This is true for the soon to be graduating seniors on the Eastern Michigan University women’s volleyball team.
Despite a heartbreaking loss in the opening round of the Mid-American Conference playoffs Nov. 16 to the Bowling Green State University Falcons, the three departing seniors can tell you how
much they’ve changed since coming here as freshmen.
Outside hitters Rachel Iaquaniello and Kaitlyn Vincek and middle blocker Kristen Baker made a huge impact in their time at Eastern. Having spent four years not only as volleyball players but students as well, they had some parting words that they were more than
willing to share.
Unfortunately, Vincek’s schedule precluded her from sharing her thoughts, but the other two had plenty of things to say.
Baker made it a point to highlight that. EMU does a great job of promoting a family atmosphere not only with its students, but its student-athletes as well.
“No matter where you go, you will always have someone that you know,” Baker said. “You’ll always have some type of contact somewhere or someone that’s going to be there for you; someone either from the EMU family or someone from the EMU family that knows someone outside of the family that will help you.”
Lifelong relationships also develop over time at Eastern. Whether they’re roommates you’ve had over the years or friends made at First Four orientation to that one person you met in your first class or the person who sat with you through a difficult time, this definitely holds true. Iaquaniello remembered very well the relationships she’s built.
“I met all my best friends here,” Iaquaniello said. “I think they’ve helped me to kind of come out of my shell and develop as a person and I think they’re relationships that I’m going to have my whole life.”
She later mentioned teammate Carolyn Steger as one of the people most responsible for helping to bring her out of her shell.
People have the amazing ability to change over time. This is especially true when somebody goes away to college. In the process of meeting and developing relationships with many new people, one also is able to learn about who they are as a person.
“I used to be really quiet,” Iaquaniello said. “Like really quiet. I think I’m more confident and more comfortable with myself.”
Baker also agreed that she’s changed a great deal since becoming a member of the Eagle family four years ago.
“I think I’ve changed both as a leader and as a person,” she said. “I’ve grown as a leader in that if I am going to be a leader, I know how to help each person individually so that they can succeed and do their part and know that I’ve succeeded in my job.”
Baker is majoring in physical education with a minor in health education and hopes to graduate at the end of the fall 2013 semester with an adaptive P.E. certificate. As far as teaching and/or coaching, she’s not sure exactly which avenue to pursue at this point.
“I think I’m just going to explore my options, because there are a lot of them,” Baker said.
Iaquaniello is currently on track to graduate in the spring, but has an internship that she needs to complete first before earning her degree. As an exercise science major, Iaquaniello has her sights set on being a physical therapist.
Both Iaquaniello and Baker agreed that the best advice they have for any incoming freshman is to get involved in something on campus.
“I think my advice would be to get involved in anything and everything that you can,” Baker said. “There are a lot of great opportunities at Eastern.”
She even had advice for those students already getting involved in athletics.
“I would say get out of the athletic world,” Baker said. “Explore Eastern more than just the athletics because there’s so much more to offer and so much more for each student. Just explore all your options as a freshman and don’t get set on one thing because you never know what could happen.”
That advice would have served Iaquaniello well when she got here, but she has still made opportunities for herself to get involved somewhere besides the volleyball court.
“I kind of regret not being involved in something besides athletics,” Iaquaniello said. “Now that I’m older, I’ve found a couple ways to volunteer so I think that would be something that people should get into because it feels really good to help out.”
They both gave advice about the professors with the best classes, which might help some of you who are still making up your minds about which classes to take next semester.
“I think that everyone should take Heather Neff’s African-American Literature,” Baker said. “It was one of my favorite classes.”
Iaquaniello also had a couple of professors that she would recommend.
“I really like [Sheldon] Levine,” she said. “He’s my exercise science advisor and he teaches EKG [electrocardiogram]. That was a really fun class. It was really challenging, but it was very interesting. I liked [John] Carbone. He taught sports nutrition. He’s very energetic about what he’s teaching and it makes you really want to know [what he’s teaching].”
The next step before these two young women graduate is transitioning from athlete to beginning their life off the court. Both of them said at this early stage, the transition is difficult.
“I just scheduled my classes and it was the weirdest feeling ever,” Baker said. “Knowing that next semester, I won’t have to be waking up at 6:30 in the morning to go to practice. I can wake up at 8:30 a.m. and go to my 9:30 a.m. class. It’s really weird. It’s bittersweet because I’m excited to start the new chapter [of my life], but I don’t want this chapter to end.”
Despite the transition, Iaquaniello is determined to find a way to keep playing.
“I really, really like to play,” she said. “I can’t just take a semester off playing. I actually tried to find a way to schedule my classes around spring practice, but I have that one 8 a.m. class that’s going to interfere, but I still think I can make it when class gets out.”
Both made it a point to thank all their coaches. Not just the ones in the past, but current head coach Kim Berrington. They mentioned that Berrington and her staff were instrumental in making them the people they are today.
Iaquaniello said of all the things that she experienced here at EMU, she is going to miss seeing the same people every day the most.
“I see these people every single day,” Iaquaniello said. “I know that I’m going to miss them and I know I’m going to miss volleyball.”
Baker said the same thing.
“It’s so weird that 10 years of my life spent devoted to something is going to be missing,” she said. “I’m so glad that I get to be going through it with Rachel [Iaquaniello] and we’ll see what happens. I’m excited to see what the future holds, but also nervous. Stories do come to an end and this is just another chapter.”