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Aurora

A dream come true


Big Foot senior Kunes earns D1 scholarship



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Standout volleyball player Annie Kunes will play division 1 ball at the University of Texas-San Antonio in the fall of 2012.

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Kunes (click for larger version)
June 15, 2011 | 11:10 AM
Fontana — Big Foot soon-to-be senior Annie Kunes is living out her dream.

For years now, she has been dedicated to volleyball, driving down to Illinois for three-hour club practices, traveling across the country for weekend tournaments and playing for the Big Foot varsity squad.

Well, the blood, sweat and tears have paid off for the 17-year-old standout. She recently verbally committed to play Division 1 college volleyball at the University of Texas-San Antonio, realizing a goal she has had since the age of 12.

The younger sister of Kelly, who played on the Williams Bay championship volleyball teams in the mid-2000s, and Mike, a former multi-sport athlete at Big Foot, Annie has quite the athletic pedigree.

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She has one more season of Big Foot volleyball and club volleyball with the Fusion before heading down south for the Lonestar state.

The Regional News sat down with Annie Monday at her Fontana home to discuss her scholarship, her love of the sport and the future.

RN: How did your scholarship come about?

AK: It happened in the beginning of April. I had a lot of visits and some offers. San Antonio was never really one of my big options, but I definitely wanted to visit every possible school. My mom and I flew down to San Antonio, and right when I got there, I was like, 'We've got a problem, mom, I love this place.' I loved the school and the coaches and everything about it. Two weeks later, I called them and verbally committed. I'm blown away. I'm very excited and thankful for this opportunity, especially to my parents for always being there.

RN: Why did you decide to commit at this time?

AK: You have to be a freshman in high school to verbally commit. You can't actually sign until fall of your senior year. Lately, with so much competition in volleyball, a lot of girls commit really early. Playing libero (defensive specialist), it's very hard to get a scholarship. It's even harder if you wait longer. They (San Antonio) made me feel very comfortable down there. I wasn't nervous. They said they would help me make sure I get my grades and classes figured out. It was a very secure feeling.

RN: When did you start talking to colleges? And what other schools did you consider?

AK: I've always wanted to play Division 1. It's been a goal since I was 12. Girls play club so they can get recruited. Last summer, I sent out my portfolio. I started coming in contact with schools I was interested in. I talked to James Madison University in Virginia and received an offer from them. I visited there along with Valparaiso (Indiana) and San Antonio. I visited all three, and I loved all of them. I was looking to get away and go to a bigger school like San Antonio. Two of the girls are my club teammates. I love the weather, too.

RN: Tell me about your club volleyball experience.

AK: I play for Club Fusion in Marengo, Ill. We play year-round, but you can't play during your high school season. My last tournament is nationals in Florida coming up this week. My sister, Kelly, played club throughout high school. I tried out for a club team when I was 9 years old. I didn't make it until I was 10. It was a 12U team. I moved to Fusion when I was 15, and I've played there ever since. I am on the 17U team right now. I practice three days a week, and we play in tournaments almost every weekend. We get some weekends off. It's a big commitment.

RN: How far do you guys travel for club?

AK: Our league is in Aurora, Ill., but we have tournaments in Kentucky, Michigan, Florida and just about everywhere.

RN: How integral of a role has club played in your scholarship?

AK: I think club is the reason I have a scholarship. It's a very high level, and many colleges come to our tournaments. They follow girls from the age of 15.

RN: You play outside hitter for Big Foot. What do you like better, hitting or playing libero?

AK: In club, when there are 6-foot-4 girls blocking me, I'd rather be in the back row. Libero is my spot. I like being back there and diving and getting good digs.

RN: How has playing at Big Foot helped your journey?

AK: I love playing for Big Foot. It gives me so much confidence being a hitter. It lets me know I can do a lot of things and get a feel for every position.

RN: What else do you have going on this summer?

AK: I'm playing in Europe for two weeks in July. Most of the girls are college players, but sometimes younger girls are invited. Three of my Fusion teammates got invited. We are going to Rome for six days to train, then Croatia, then Venice, Italy, where we will play in a big tournament. It's a learning experience and will try to get us ready for the big college game.

RN: With all this volleyball, do you have any time to relax?

AK: I'm doing some babysitting and I mostly hang out. I try to have a life in the summer. My family is really good about coming to my games and helping me out. My friends understand that I can hang out for two hours, but then I have to go practice.

RN: Where did this passion for volleyball come from?

AK: My older sister, Kelly, who is 23 now, started playing when she was 14, and I've always watched her. She's always been my role model. She's been my biggest inspiration. When she found out I wanted to play college ball, she pushed me so hard. We would play at open gyms together and play sand volleyball together. Or we would play in the backyard. I just love the game. And I love my club and high school teams. It's a team sport, and that means a lot to me. I like going to practice and scrimmaging. I like the feeling of being on the court.

RN: What are you most looking forward to in your senior year at Big Foot?

AK: I'm very excited for the high school season. I think we'll have a great team this year. We have some new possible transfers, and I think we will be solid. Coach Jen Stelling has a lot of things going for us this summer.

RN: What are your interests in school?

AK: I love English. I love writing stories. And weirdly, I like biotechnology. So I'm taking some advanced classes in English and Biotech. I am still undecided for a major in college, but San Antonio has a very good English program.

RN: Do you have any early goals for when you play at San Antonio?

AK: They said I am going to play at libero my freshman year if all goes well. That's big for me. I am going to be committed and work really hard to keep my GPA up.

RN: If you had a message for young girls interested in volleyball, what would it be?

AK: I would say go for it. Follow your dreams and be committed. If you're not, it's not going to be fun for you. Have fun and work really hard. And definitely listen to your coaches.

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