Courtesy of Megan Lobdell, Big Sky Conference
Ogden, Utah - Former Eastern Washington Women's Volleyball standout Kim Exner has been named to the Big Sky Conference's "25 Greatest Female Athletes" list, coming in at No. 12 the league office announced Monday, Dec. 30.
Exner, who lettered for the Eagles from 1995-98, is one of three Big Sky Conference women's volleyball players to claim two regular-season MVP Awards. She's also the only MVP to have also won the league's Newcomer of the Year honor.
"That is pretty phenomenal," said Exner. "I am kind of a statistical kind of person and breaking down statistically where that puts me in the volleyball world, that is great. Individual accolades, especially in a team sport, are great however it does say a lot more about the personnel, the coaching staff, the training staff, the strength staff, obviously my teammates, my roommates and the people I went to class with. All of those people played a part in it and helped me move forward and improve and get better and do those things. Eastern is just a special place."
Exner is from Vernon, B.C., she first came to Eastern in 1995.
"It was all kind of new to me with being from Canada and not knowing how the whole process worked coming in and kind of what a big deal it was at the time," said Exner. "I had no idea what to expect, what we were going to accomplish, and looking back it was quite a big deal. I had probably the best group of teammates anyone can ever ask for."
During Exner's freshman season she was named Co-Top Newcomer with Boise State's Robin Phipps and Montana State's Kira Laden.
"I think the Big Sky has always been that way since I was involved that there was a lot of very good coaches at a very high level," said Exner. "We are given a lot of respect and I think they do get good coaches and for those coaches to see that and see those things. That is an honor."
"Coming in as a freshman from Canada, I was pretty green," added Exner. "For them to see I had the potential to do a little more than the other freshman was very special and I am glad I could carry on and show them that first year they made a good decision. I just think the Big Sky all by itself a great league and the coaches have come and gone through there have gone on to do other things as well."
During the 1995 season, the Eagles finished 8-20 overall and 3-11 in the Big Sky. EWU continued to grow, finishing third in the Big Sky at 9-7 and 16-12 in 1996.
During Exner's junior season, the Eagles finished a tied for first place with a 13-3 conference record with Sacramento State. EWU was 22-6 overall that season. Exner was named Co-MVP her junior year and won the award outright in 1998.
In 1989, Eastern Washington finished 13-3 in conference play and 24-6 overall. The Eagles advanced to the NCAA Championship for the first time since 1989.
The road back to the NCAA's wasn't an easy one. EWU faced Montana State and won 3-0 in the semifinals. But the toughest match came in the championship against the No. 1 seed and tournament host Sacramento State. The Hornets were hard to beat on their home floor. The Eagles ended up falling in the match 3-0 (15-11, 15-9, 15-12).
"Going into Sacramento and playing them in their gym was always a challenge," she said. "It didn't matter who you were. and it didn't matter what you did that season or how well they were doing. For whatever reason it was a monkey on our back."
"I don't remember the match specifically," added Exner. "It was tough because I knew two of those seniors I played with weren't going to go on and play volleyball after that. So it was pretty heart breaking when you think that could be your last game. Fortunately for us it wasn't."
The Eagles ended up earning an at-large berth and kept their season alive going to the NCAA Tournament. EWU ended up facing Notre Dame in the first round of the tournament in Palo Alto, Calif. EWU fell in four.
"I don't remember playing as well as I liked to," Exner said. "We had jitters, but we defiantly felt that we had it going by the third set. We would have loved to win the fourth set and push it to at least a fifth since we were definitely holding in there with them. It was competitive. In my mind we didn't get beat by a better team we just didn't play as well as we should have. It would have been interesting to take it to a fifth set and have played Stanford in the second round which would have been. That was the Kerri Walsh era and how many people can say they played against Kerri Walsh."
Exner was a three-time Big Sky first team all-conference member. She ranks third in the Big Sky in total kills with 1,860. She also earned American Volleyball Coaches Association All-Region VIII accolades in both 1997 & 1998. Exner became the first player in conference history to win the AVCA National Player of the Week award on Sept. 14, 1998.
Currently, Exner is living in Henderson, Nev., with her husband and two girls. She is a stay-at-home mom, while her husband Timm Rosenbach is the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for UNLV.