Marian graduates learn lifelong lessons through collegiate sports

morganhobbs & maddiemingo

From Division titles to lasting friendships, Marian alumni have found success on and off the field. Kenzie Meola’16 was named Big East Freshman of the Week in September for soccer, Nicole Liske ’13 has placed in several Division I conference track meets and softball player Shannon Daly ’12 was named an NFCA (National Fastpitch Coaches Association) All-American Scholar Athlete. Volleyball player Brittany Witt ‘16 led the Big East in total digs this fall while helping her team to reach its first-ever NCAA Tournament Regional Final.

“Playing soccer in college has to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made,” Meola said after finishing her first collegiate soccer season. “I have made amazing friendships through the Creighton Women’s soccer team, and this past season I was lucky enough to be able to earn a spot on the starting lineup. It really made all my hard work worth it.”

screen-shot-2017-02-23-at-12-36-47-pmLiske ’13 has had similar success through her sport. With personal bests in the 60 meter dash, 100 meter dash, long jump and 4×100 meter relay, Liske has dedicated many long hours and hard work to her sport.

“College athletics has humbled me,” Liske said. “In high school, I could get away with not doing a full warm-up or prep and still win my event. In college, if I don’t devote even the minimum time needed to warm-up, I find myself starting out at the bottom and having to work my way up throughout my event.  I’ve learned I must match or exceed the ambition and preparation of my competition to perform well, whether that is by being confident in myself or taking extra time to get warm and work out the kinks in my technique.”

Witt ’16 also experienced significant differences between high school and collegiate sports.

“The most difficult thing to adjust to was learning how to be confident again. Walking in as a freshman to a level of play that I’ve never experienced before was intimidating. Being able to be confident in myself within the first couple weeks helped me become the player that I was able to be this season.”

Witt’s contributions certainly helped her Creighton volleyball team this fall. The school tied its school-record of 29 wins, had their best finish ever in program history, and was the first team from the Big East to go 18-0 in conference play. Witt’s success at libero played a factor in that.

Daly ’12 is another alumna who played a big role in her team’s success. Daly recently finished her collegiate softball career at the University of Sioux Falls, where, in addition to being an All-American Scholar, she was also named to the NSIC All-Conference Second Team, All-Central Region Division II First Team and NFCA Division II All-American Third Team. She returned to Marian this year as a coach to share her knowledge. She coaches the junior varsity softball team and assists with the varsity squad as well. Not only is she helping the team by sharing her own advice from her playing career, but she is also using her degree in physical therapy to assist the teams in making sure they remain at peak physical condition.

“I wanted to return to coach at Marian because I’ve always loved to coach and to teach, and what better place to do that at than the school that helped me better myself?” Daly said. “Marian helped shape me into the person I want to be and I wanted to give back and help young girls have that same opportunity.”

The Marian experience has changed the life of these athletes and many more.

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Brittany Witt ’13 – Creighton University

Q: What successes have you found playing volleyball in college?

A: There are many different successes that come along with playing volleyball in college. I would say the biggest thing is the opportunities that you get to experience with people that you begin to call your family. Of course there are always the personal accolades that one can receive and tournaments that the team can win, but it’s the friendships that you create by spending so much time with these each other that make it all worth it.

Q: What are some of the biggest differences between playing college and high school sports?

A: The biggest difference between the college and high school level would be the accountability that you are held to. Every day you are expected to be giving 100% and never taking a day off. As for school, you are responsible for going to class and being able to manage your time and how to handle missing class while traveling.

Q: Was it difficult to adjust to and learn how to play a new position?

A: The most difficult thing to adjust to was learning how to be confident again. Walking in as a freshman to a level of play that I’ve never experienced before was intimidating. Being able to be confident in myself within the first couple weeks, helped me become the player that I was able to be this season.

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Kenzie Meola ‘16 – Creighton University

Q: How have you grown as an athlete in a college sport versus when you were in high school?

A: In college, the level of play is a lot more demanding physically. Playing at a collegiate level is also a lot more time consuming but this allows for you to really work hard and get better at your sport. I know I’ve gotten stronger and quicker which has helped me in my play. In college every player you come across is talented which makes it more competitive than a high school league.

Q:What successes have you found playing soccer in college?

A: Playing soccer in college has to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Traveling around the country to play high level teams was a great experience and made my team better overall. I have made amazing friendships as well through the Creighton Women’s soccer team. I’m constantly surrounded by them and they know exactly what I’m going through since they face the same challenges everyday of balancing soccer and academics. This past season I was lucky enough to be able to earn a spot on the starting lineup. It really made all my hard work worth it.

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Nicole Liske ‘13 – University of Nebraska Omaha

Q: What events do you run/ personal bests?

A: I run the 60 M dash, 100 M, long jump, and the 4×100 M relay. My personal bests are 8.00 for the 60, 12.08 for the 100, 18’10” in the long jump, and 46.6 for the 4×100 relay. 

Q: How have you grown as an athlete in a college sport versus when you were in high school?

A: College athletics has humbled me.  At college track meets, there are athletes from all divisions and schools, and even professional athletes are present.  That shell-shocked me my freshman year in college, coming from a very successful high school career to an environment where the competition was intimidating and extremely talented.  College athletics has also taught me how strong the mind is over the body and physical performance.  Also, I have learned the importance of mental and physical preparation.  In high school, I could get away with not doing a full warmup or prep and still win my event.  In college, if I don’t devote even the minimum time needed to warmup, I find myself starting out at the bottom and having to work my way up throughout my event.  I’ve learned I must match or exceed the ambition and preparation of my competition to perform well, whether that is by being confident in myself or taking extra time to get warm and work out the kinks in my technique.

Q: What successes have you found running track in college? A: The successes I’ve found running college track are endless!  Placing in Division I conference meets every year, recording new personal records in the weight room and on the track, and being able to travel around the country virtually half of the year are some of the major blessings.  I would have to say that the friendships I’ve made and the people I’ve met have been the greatest blessings from being a college athlete, as well as the lessons I’ve learned through my experiences in college.

A: Yes!  I transferred to Wesleyan this past year, and was told I had to redshirt, but my coaches and I figured out the second day of official practice that I was actually eligible to compete this year.

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Shannon Daly ‘12 – Sioux Falls University

Q: What successes have you found playing softball in college? 

A: The successes I have found through playing college softball are pretty much countless. Sure, there are the awards received that can be counted. NFCA (National Fastpitch Coaches Association) All-American Scholar Athlete, NSIC Scholar Athlete Award, NSIC All-Conference Second Team, All-Central Region Division II First Team, and NFCA Division II Third Team All-American. The ones that can’t be counted are the most important though. Being voted team captain my senior season, that was such an honor because it meant my coaches and my teammates believed in me enough to make me a leader. The experiences I had while playing college softball were so educating and helped shape me. I learned a lot about myself and, even though I got kicked down a few times, I was always able to learn from my mistakes and keep moving forward.

Awards and experiences are amazing, but the best thing I received while playing college softball was my friendships I made. My teammates became my sisters and my coaches became role models. These relationships are what will stay with me forever.

Q: What made you want to return to Marian as a coach?

A: I wanted to return to coach at Marian because I’ve always loved to coach and to teach, and what better place to do that at than the school that helped me better myself? Marian helped shape me into the person I want to be and I wanted to give back and help young girls have that same opportunity.

Q: How do you think being a former player has helped you coach?

A: Being a former player is the reason I consider myself a good coach. I would never even consider coaching if I didn’t have the experience that I do. The game has taught me so much, through my failures and my successes, I was finally able to start to understand what softball is about. I thought I knew a lot about softball, but then I started coaching and I realized there are so many things for me to learn about the game. I am constantly learning and I think that being open to new lessons is a huge attribute to being a good coach. I don’t think I would be open to learning new things in the coaching sense if I wasn’t a former player.

Q: What lessons have college or high school softball taught you that have helped prepare you for outside of college?

A: I’ve learned a lot through the game of softball. There are so many important lessons I’ve learned, so I can’t just pinpoint one over the other. The game has taught me to never give up, even if you are down 11-1, because it’s not over until the 7th inning. We are going to fail and we are going to fall, but the game has taught me to keep pressing forward and to always stand back up. Softball has made me a better person, I have learned it’s okay to fail, but to never give up. I think that is a very important lesson to carry with me throughout my life.

Photos courtesy of interviewees.

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