Kelly, Sei And Staker Play Final Home Match Saturday Night
By Kara LaPoint
This weekend marks the final home matches of the season for Wolf Pack volleyball, but for three team members - seniors Jorgan Staker, Lauren Kelly and Sonnie Sei - the home matches will be the last of their careers.
Each of the seniors, all of whom have been playing volleyball for over ten years now, said they have mixed emotions about representing the silver and blue in front of their home crowd for the last time.
As their collegiate careers come to an end, nostalgia and excitement surface while the girls reflect on their time at Nevada and look forward to their futures.
"It's bittersweet," Staker said. "I am excited to be done and do different things in my life, but at the same time it has been such a big part of my life for so long that I kind of won't know what to do without it."
Kelly and Sei expressed similar sentiments, unable to decide which emotions were predominant.
"I'm actually super excited," Kelly said. "I'm sad that it's all coming to an end, but it's very exciting to know that everything I worked so hard for is finally (culminating)."
Sei said that for her the feelings are "different every day."
"On one hand I'm anxious, but then I'm also sad," she said.
The girls said that, looking back, it's difficult to pinpoint their favorite aspects of their place on the Wolf Pack volleyball team, but many similar highlights were mentioned.
Staker said her favorite part about Nevada volleyball was the relationships she built and the traveling. Specifically, she mentioned going to Utah State to play in front of her family as her favorite traveling meet.
Sei, who also mentioned the relationships among her teammates as a favorite aspect of her career, said another highlight has been getting to know other athletes within the conference.
"With our program you get to know the other athletes really well," she said.
Though career highlights were difficult to determine, the seniors did say certain years stood out as particularly memorable.
Both Staker and Kelly said their freshman years were especially fun.
"It was all so new and there were so many different experiences," Staker said.
Kelly also said the newness of her freshman year made it exciting, adding that the distinction of the playing level compared to high school contributed to the excitement as well.
"You got to see the difference in playing division one volleyball versus high school," she said. "It was scary at the time, but challenging and super exciting."
Looking forward, the girls said they will miss many things about collegiate volleyball. What they said they will miss the most, though, is their teammates.
"I will miss being around the girls," Staker said. "I got to see my 14 best friends everyday... all the jokes and memories... there will kind of be a big void there."
Staker said she will also miss the games and traveling.
"The games were so fun," she said. "The community was always a big support."
Kelly also said the will miss her teammates the most, especially Sei and Staker, her fellow seniors.
"We've just been together so long," she said.
She also said she will miss the competitiveness of the game and the opportunity to play at that level.
"Getting to compete and play competitively is such a huge difference between anything else I've ever experienced," she said. "When you get to play a team that's top-25 in the nation, it's a really exciting feeling."
Sei - who said Nevada was the only school she considered -- also said she will miss seeing the team everyday, and said she worries about falling out of touch with them in the future.
"Once everyone graduates they lose touch," she said. "That's what I'll miss the most is just being around everyone everyday."
Though they said they will miss collegiate volleyball very much, the seniors each expressed interest in potentially playing again in the future - but only after a well-deserved break.
"I want to try to play (at some point), but I'm excited to have a break for a bit," Staker said.
Kelly said that she, too, is happy to have a break and probably will not play competitive volleyball for a while, but would like to go out and play for fun at the beach or on the grass.
She did say, though, that she would like to stay active in the volleyball community, preferably as a college or high school coach.
"My best-case scenario would be to be a head coach of a team and run their lifting and training program," Kelly said.
Sei, whose ultimate goal is to work with kids, said she would potentially like to coach younger children in the sport.
The three seniors said they don't have concrete post-graduation plans just yet, but they do have an idea of what they would like to do.
Staker, who will graduate in the fall of 2010, said she would like to move back to Salt Lake City, her hometown, to watch her siblings play collegiate sports of their own.
Kelly said that while she has no specific plans after she graduates this fall, she would like to leave Reno, where she has grown up and lived all her life.
"I think it's my time to leave and see what the world has to offer," she said.
Sei will graduate in August of 2010. She said she is looking into any plan that will allow her to work with kids.
As the seniors approach their final games and reflect on their careers, they have looked back on what volleyball has done for them, both as athletes and individuals, with gratitude.
Staker said that while volleyball was primarily a means to get her education, it has given her so much more, too.
"It was always a good motivator," she said. "As cliché as it sounds, it teaches you a lot of life lessons."
The biggest of those, she said, is persistence.
"It really was a job for us," she said. "It was a really fun job, but it was something where there were definitely days you didn't want to go. But you learn (the value of) going anyway."
Kelly said that the biggest thing volleyball has taught her is to "go with the flow."
"Things don't always work out exactly as you planned," she said. "Volleyball has given me the ability to react to the situation I am in and do something about it from that point, which I was never very good at (before)."
Sei, who credits volleyball for pushing her to go to college right away, said the sport and the coaching staff, in particular, have taught her a lot about responsibility, commitment and dedication.
Devin Scruggs, head of that coaching staff, said that the seniors, in turn, have given a lot to the team as well. While she said they are a "neat group" and will be greatly missed as a whole, she spoke about the impacts each of them made on a personal basis.
"Individually, each is extremely special," she said. "They all three have unique personalities and contributed in a different way."
Scruggs said Kelly is probably the most intense player and hardest worker she has ever coached.
"She sets the standard of effort in the gym," Scruggs said.
Meanwhile, she said Staker, whom she commended for her positive attitude and support for her teammates, sets the standard for her athletes in the classroom.
"She is a phenomenal student," Scruggs said.
Of Sei, Scruggs said, "She is an amazing listener."
She said that Sei, whom she credits for her progression as a student-athlete over her four years at Nevada, is consistently there to listen intently and compassionately to her teammates.
Overall, Scruggs said the team will feel the loss of its seniors, mostly in terms of their relationships.
"We've got good players coming in," she said, "but the team will be most affected by the personal relationships the seniors have created with them. Each brings a different light (to the team)."