I was raised in a small town called Azle, Texas by my parents Janine and Warren Smith who both graduated from, and were student-athletes at, The University of Texas. I started playing volleyball at a young age, some say it is in my blood, and absolutely idolized Jordan Larson, an outside hitter who competed for the University of Nebraska from 2005-2008. As a young athlete, I begged my mom and dad to drive to Austin every year to watch the Nebraska vs. Texas match (when both schools competed in the Big 12 Conference). The sport quickly became my passion and I fell in love with bettering my skillset in hopes of competing in college someday. My dream was to play for the University of Nebraska.
When My Dream Turned Into Reality
In high school, during the initial recruiting process, I never imagined that playing for the Huskers would become a potential opportunity. When it did, I was ecstatic. After seeing me play, Coach John Cook asked if I would like to come on an unofficial visit to Lincoln to see the campus. After an impressive day of touring the facilities, my family and I sat down with him and the staff in his office. I immediately knew with my whole heart that I wanted to be a part of Nebraska’s program. Two days later, I called Coach Cook and committed.
The Early Days As a Husker
During my first two years with the Huskers, our team won the NCAA National Championship in 2015 and a B1G Championship in 2016. Being part of something bigger than I had ever been before was incredibly special to me. I cherished each and every moment with my teammates, the staff, and everyone involved in helping us achieve success inside the classroom and on the competition floor. Also, I found a degree program that I adored and decided to pursue a degree in Dietetics to become a Registered Sports Dietitian. This career path was another passion of mine and I was thrilled to go after my academic ambitions as well.
However, after my sophomore year, I so badly missed competing in the sport I fell in love with. My role during my freshman season was mostly as a serving specialist with very limited time and my sophomore year, I hardly ever saw court time. As much as I loved supporting my best friends and teammates, I also wanted to see what I could do with my remaining volleyball career/eligibility. At the time, it was important to me that I made a name for myself and showed that I was capable to compete and succeed at a high level. I made the decision to transfer from the University of Nebraska in May 2017 and it was by far the hardest decision I have ever had to make.
My Time As A Wildcat
I transferred to Kansas State University where I spent my junior year. While at Kansas State, I made good grades, was voted to the Leadership Council by my teammates and gave 110% in every workout, practice, and relationship I was involved in. Also, I played a significant role on the court in a 6-2 (two-setter) system. But something was missing.
The Missing Piece
My collegiate experience at Nebraska was what I had always dreamed about as a little girl. It was an avenue I already explored but I knew in my heart Lincoln was where I was meant to finish my career. After obtaining my release from Kansas State University, I had a conversation with Coach Cook who told me that I was once a big part of his program and would love to have me back on the team. I was beyond excited, grateful, motivated, hopeful, and knew I would be at peace back in Lincoln.
The Rollercoaster Of The Transfer Process
However, there were still obstacles to overcome. Between returning to the Huskers’ summer workout routine and academic meetings about transfer credits and graduation, I still needed approval from the NCAA to compete my senior season. I spent almost every day in the compliance office with Jamie Vaughn, the Director of Compliance, who worked extremely hard to support my family and I. From July through mid-September, I went through a whirlwind of emotions.
Transferring (again), moving back to Lincoln, finding a place to live, enrolling in classes, attending a multitude of meetings, and finding my place with old and new teammates, really took a lot out of me. But I have never been more thankful to be back with the people I created lifelong relationships with. It was doubtlessly worth it! My teammates, along with the coaching, academic, and support staff at Nebraska, are so dedicated to ensuring you succeed on and off the court. The connections I have made at this university are some of the greatest blessings I could have ever asked for.
Thank You For Having Me Back, Huskers!
My teammates are a pivotal reason why I love waking up every day to compete for Nebraska. Not only have they helped me learn and grow into the person I want to become, they also fully accepted and embraced what makes me unique. I have formed friendships that I would not trade for anything in the world. And I learned that in trusting the process, although your story may be unconventional, it is ever so special.
I have experienced winning a National Championship and a B1G Championship alongside some of the most talented and genuine girls I know. But our bond off the court, and all the memories we’ve made, remains the most incredible win in my book.
My Final Chapter At Nebraska
My story continues to be written. I write a little bit every day in hopes that years from now I can look back and remember where hard work, dedication, and passion can truly take you. It all began as a little girl dreaming to play volleyball at Nebraska. I have learned along the way that dreamers are drawn to this place and am beyond thankful for the continued opportunity to represent Nebraska in the best way I know. As my senior season continues, I am working to write a successful and memorable final chapter and one that ends with another championship celebration. My time at Nebraska has been filled with heart, passion, laughter, and love, and is such a huge part of who I am today!
I am incredibly thankful for the University of Nebraska and the people here who help student-athletes achieve their goals and continue writing their stories. Nebraska holds a special place in my heart and the memories I have made here will be cherished forever.
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