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Bringin the Noise: Defending RMAC P.O.Y Walkowiak learns lessons on and off court
Matthew Iberg
Antelope Staff
Photo by Garrett Ritonya
Walkowiak has UNK and the team off to a 13-1 start, the best in the RMAC.

Katy Perry, Sean Kingston and Lady GaGa.

No, not an upcoming concert but Jeri Walkowiak’s warm-up routine for volleyball.

Walkowiak, a junior middle hitter from Grand Island, uses those artists' songs to prepare her for her daily two-hour practices.

“I need to make myself better," Walkowiak said. "The singing helps me to get ‘in the zone’” .

The Lopers are 13-1 on the season and currently ranked eighth in the nation, definitely “in the zone.”

Sweeping their first four conference opponents, the Lopers are in prime position to win the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference title for the sixth time in as many years.

Walkowiak is a key component of this year’s team as she is in the top three on the team in attacks, sets, kills, points and also leads the team with 31 blocks on the year.

She tries to keep practice lighthearted while she works out.

At times, you can look over to her and see her keeled over, not out of exhaustion, but in side-splitting laughter.

You can see she is at ease and motivated.

“I feel a little more comfortable this year,” Walkowiak said. “We’re an older team for once. There is a little more determination this year because there are more seniors and juniors who are starting to realize that it does come to an end. We want to leave it all out on the court.”

Currently in the middle of a two week road trip, Walkowiak must juggle practices, games, school and her personal life.

With more than 50 hours a week dedicated to practice, conditioning, travel and games, finding time to keep up in the classroom can be difficult.

“Teachers have higher expectations from athletes,” Walkowiak said. “As a student-athlete, teachers really expect you to be a student first.”

Student-athletes have little time to do their homework. They find time while traveling for games on a bus.

“Sometimes,” Walkowiak said, “it’s hard to do homework on the bus or over the weekend. I just have to make time for it, whether I have to stay up late or wake up early.”

Volleyball adds structure and routine to Walkowiak’s life. With a majority of her week devoted to athletics, she realizes her free time is precious.

The tough mix of athletics and academics could drain many people of their energy levels but not Walkowiak.

At the end of a two-hour practice, she still had a spring in her step and a pop to her hit.

A sense of poise and ease hover around the team.

“We still have a lot to learn as a team,” Walkowiak said. “Working together, working on fundamentals and being aggressive, once we get that all together, we have no reason not to be confident.”


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