A walk-on who has started nearly every match of the 2011 campaign, freshman Kelsey Julian relishes the unexpected twist to her rookie season
Eastern Washington University volleyball player Kelsey Julian has certainly made the most of her opportunity to be part of a Division I program.
A three-sport athlete out of Kennewick (Wash.) High School, Julian was not heavily recruited for volleyball. She had a few offers from Division II schools, but her dream of a future in the sport remained at the Division I level.
While attending an Eagle volleyball summer camp as a prep athlete, head coach Miles Kydd and his staff witnessed her passion and potential, and later invited her to walk-on to the team.
Julian intended to redshirt the 2011 campaign, but in the midst of pre-season training, the freshman proved herself on the court and in the weight room, and earned a starting spot in her very first year with the Eagles.
"Kelsey is a real competitor," said Kydd. "She has a lot of passion and energy. In just the first couple weeks of practice, it became pretty obvious we could use her based on what she was bringing to the court."
Julian has started 18 of 19 matches for EWU, averaging 0.96 kills and 0.62 blocks per set as an outside hitter. In just the second collegiate match of her career, Julian helped the Eagles upset rival Washington State in five dramatic sets at the Seattle University Fall Volley. She had three kills, four digs and team-leading eight blocks in the match that she says has been the highlight of her young career.
Julian and the rest of the Eagle squad have an important pair of Big Sky home matches this weekend, starting tonight with Montana at 7 p.m. at Reese Court. Eastern will take on Montana State on Saturday (Oct. 29), also starting at 7.
Q: How does it feel to be a freshman starting on a Division I volleyball team?
A: "I am just really blessed to have this opportunity. I didn't really know I was going to be starting this year, but it has been an amazing experience. As stressful as it can be at times, and as much pressure as I put on myself, I still just feel really blessed to have this experience every day."
Q: What has been your favorite memory so far in your first season with the Eagles?
A: "I would have to say it was when we played Washington State University at Seattle in our first tournament of the season. It was one of the most exciting volleyball matches I have ever played in my whole entire career. It was kind of a rivalry game and we beat WSU in the fifth set, and that was a really cool experience."
Q: What has been the biggest challenge with your role on the Eastern volleyball team?
A: "Right now, it's just competing at a different level than I've ever played before. I am working at keeping my confidence up and supporting my teammates, so they will support me as well."
Q: Can you identify one or two things you do in your training that you feel are keys to success?
A: "During practice, I try to practice as hard as I would play in a game, and work on different things that are going to help me, especially in fifth-game situations where I know I can help my team succeed."
Q: What do you consider the biggest accomplishment of your athletic career?
A: "My high school is over 100 years old, and our volleyball team has never really been successful. I was on varsity all four years and no one ever said we were going to do well, but then in my senior year, we defeated our biggest rival and our team advanced to regionals for just the second time in our school's history. Then we went on to make it to state for the first time in our entire school's history. That was really cool to be a part of."
Q: Is there a major difference for you between the workload as a high school athlete and collegiate athlete?
A: "It's not so bad right now. My classes here aren't too hard, and I had a lot going on in high school, which I think helped prepare me for college. But athletics here are definitely a lot more demanding. I think I have struggled at times to adjust, but I am working to get through it and work on balancing my load between school and athletics."
Q: Outside of volleyball, how has your experience at Eastern Washington University been so far?
A: "It has been great. I have met a lot of cool athletes, and lot of cool people. It has been stressful, but at the same time, it's something I wouldn't give up for the world."
Q: What was the best advice you were ever given?
A: "Something I live by is 'walk by faith and not by sight.' I feel that in any situation I am in, if I have faith, I will be able to get through."
Q: Do you have a special saying or motto that's helped shape your life?
A: "It's Gandhi's 'Be the change you wish to see in the world.' When people ask what you want to do when you grow up and who do you want to be, I just want to help people in any way, shape or form."