VolleyballRecruits.net is now presenting Get to Know a College Program! Periodically, we are going to share with you interviews with college vballers, who are here to tell you how they chose their program and what it's like to be a part of their college team.
Our first player is Kacie Wikierak, a recent graduate from the University of Denver. She chatted with us about what it's like to be a Denver Pioneer and the path that took her there. Wikierak had a banner first year, named the Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Year. Wikierak was a senior captain and the starting libero for the Pioneers for the last 4 seasons. She had a successful career leaving Denver #2 in the record books for career digs, 1st in the DU record books for digs/set, seven Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Week Awards, and two 2nd Team All Conference Awards. Here's what she had to say!
On the Recruiting Process
In what ways did you make yourself accessible to college coaches?
I played on a very competitive club team. My club team traveled to numerous national Qualifiers during my 15s, 16s, 17s, and 18s years. At these tournaments, many college coaches would stop by my team’s court and watch us play. My club also had a recruiting coordinator and I spoke with him frequently about who was interested in me and who I should contact. I also sent out an introductory email to all of the programs I was very interested in.
When did you first receive personalized contact from coaches from your program?
In March of my junior year.
Describe your communication timeline with coaches from your program during the recruiting process?
March of 17s year- DU coaches saw me play at a qualifier. Right after qualifier- DU coaches called my club coaches. Right after- I called DU coaches to let them know I was interested in DU. April/May- communicated via phone calls and AIM to set up unofficial visit. May- went on unofficial visit. June- DU coaches saw me play at Nationals. July- Head coach called me and offered me a scholarship. July- I called DU coach and verbally committed.
When did you go on campus visits? And what other schools did you visit?
I visited schools during my junior year of high school. I also visited Miami of Ohio and Georgia State. I also went on a lot of campus drive bys, not meeting with the coaches.
What separated your school from the rest of your top choices?
The players on the team were so personable. The campus was gorgeous and in a great location. I did not know my major in high school so it was also helpful that I could apply to the entire university and did not have to pick a specific major on my application.
Do you have any suggestions for future athletes’ visits?
Make sure you see the coaches and players during a practice. Stay with a player overnight on your visits. Try to sit in on a class. Ask A LOT of questions! Don’t be shy, It is harder for coaches and players to get to know you.
What relationship, if any, did you have with current players on the team during the recruiting process?
During my official and unofficial visits, I stayed with the current players which helped me get to know them better. I also became facebook friends with them on the visits and followed up with any questions I had.
When did you verbally commit? When did you sign the National Letter of Intent?
I verbally committed in July after my 17s Nationals. Because I was on a 3 year scholarship and a walk on my freshman year, I did not sign a National Letter of Intent in high school.
If anything, what would you have done differently in your recruiting process?
I would have been way more proactive! I completely relied on my club coach and club recruiting coordinator to get me recruited. While I am 100% happy with my decision, I realistically had 2 choices. I now know I could have had at least 5 if not 10 offers if I would have reached out to coaches or sent video or more! Because I didn’t get a lot of playing time on my club team, I should have put together game footage, a skills video, or a highlight video and sent it to my top schools.
On Being a Student-Athlete
What were some things that you discovered about your school once you began attending that you think it would be important for recruits to know?
Although it is getting better, there is not a ton of school spirit for DU athletics. The athletic support staff was incredible and helped me in any way I needed. The strength and conditioning staff and facility were AMAZING!
Describe your campus’ location. Urban? Rural? What are some of the pros and cons?
DU is located about 15 minutes from downtown Denver and 1 hour from the mountains. This makes it a great school to experience city life as well as the mountains! There is a public transportation that stops on campus and takes you downtown. Also, a lot of students go up to the mountains on weekends to ski or snowboard or just enjoy.
Please describe a typical class at your school.
Class size is a major reason why I chose DU. It is about 1 professor to 30 students which makes it so easy to get to know all your professors. Some classes require attendance and participation while others do not. DU’s classes are typically scheduled in 2 hour blocks for 2 days a week. DU typically does not have classes on Fridays, which is nice!
Are there mandatory student-athlete study sessions?
For the volleyball team, no. Our coach did it on a player by player basis.
What kind of academic resources are available to student-athletes?
Tutors upon request, paid for by the athletic department. Athletic academic advisors who help you schedule classes around athletics and balance academics and athletics. Teaching assistants are readily available and hold office hours. There is a program on campus that helps students with learning challenges as well.
What did you major in? Are there any well-renown majors at your school?
Spanish and Psychology with a minor in Business. The Daniels College of Business is a nationally ranked business school.
What are off season workouts and practices like?
Winter season is intense lifting and conditioning with 10 hours of volleyball. This was an individual practice with 1 or 2 coaches. Also in winter we had 1 team practice a week. Spring season was also a lot of lifting and conditioning with 2.5-3 hour practices Mon-Fri. Spring season also included a few scrimmages on the weekends.
What was your travel schedule like?
DU was in the Sun Belt Conference but will be changing soon to the WAC. But for both conferences, the team has to fly to every conference game. We had to leave for away weekends on Thursdays, maybe miss a class, and come home late on Sunday. It made it nice that we didn’t have Friday classes. There are 4 weeks of tournaments before conference play begins. Denver typically hosts 1 or 2 tournaments and then traveled to 2 or 3 places. One really nice thing our coach does is a hometown trip. The coach tried to schedule an opponent as close to each player’s home as possible within their 4 years.
How did you balance volleyball and academics?
Time management! Without a planner and writing everything down, I would have forgotten all of the meetings, homework, and team events. I had to plan out my nutritional meals ahead of time. I had to plan everything to stay on top of my grades and my athletic performance.
Describe your living options.
DU requires you to live on campus your first and second years. There are basic dorm rooms or apartment style options on campus. My last 2 years I lived with teammates in an apartment. There are many houses and apartments to choose from around campus.
Describe the athletic facilities.
DU’s athletic facilities are extremely nice and well kept. They just added a new weight room and soccer stadium. It is very nice to have all athletic teams and facilities in one location. I cannot say enough great things about the facilities.
Was it possible to participate in any extracurricular activities?
I was able to study abroad in Spain during the winter trimester of my senior year. I HIGHLY recommend taking advantage of the study abroad program at DU. I was also able to participate in the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. I was very active as a leader within that group. I was also able to weekly participate in DU’s student senate. Hardly any DU athletes have time to be in Greek life, but it is possible.
Explain a day in the life of a player during fall season.
Wake up for 8 am class. Eat a good breakfast and pack a lunch to go. Attend class from about 8-12. Head to the gym for early weights or rehab. Eat lunch at the gym. Practice from about 2-5. Go home. Eat dinner. Do homework and watch volleyball film. Get as much sleep as possible.
Is there any additional information about your school you feel would benefit recruits?
In my experience at DU, my teammates were my everything during college. Try to get a feel for the team culture and chemistry that the coach wants to have. At DU, I found many opportunities for leadership and I am so happy I took advantage of those.
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