TKS sat down with senior volleyball player Casey Stachelski to have a conversation about volleyball, Knox and life after graduation. Stachelski, a biology major planning to do work at Green Oaks this coming spring, has been a vital part of the volleyball team’s growth over the past four seasons.
The Knox Student: Why did you start playing volleyball?
Casey Stachelski: I started playing volleyball in seventh grade. You had to wait until seventh grade to play in my district. I was so excited to play; it seemed like such a fun sport. It was a very girl-dominated sport and I liked that. Our school only offered track, volleyball and basketball for girls. I already ran track and I didn’t like basketball, so volleyball it was.
TKS: How has playing at Knox compared to playing elsewhere?
CS: It was a lot harder in a lot of ways to play at Knox. A lot of times it felt like you would put in so much effort and just wouldn’t see any results. But that did turn around and it’s so much more rewarding now. It’s really a direct result of the work that I put in and that the girls before me put in, and the attitude they set about volleyball, which is very gratifying. My freshman year we won two games, then three, then five and now we’ve won 10. My sophomore year it seemed like you could see things start to change. I can clearly remember a game we won against Illinois College that made me feel like we were putting it all together. Everyone started playing cohesively and we really found our rhythm as a team of predominantly underclassmen.
TKS: What has allowed volleyball to progress over the years?
CS: I think it’s a difference in team chemistry. We all carry a “we play for each other” sort of mentality. Most of us have been playing together for a couple yearsÉ We’re friends on and off the court. During preseason there’s team bonding, and during the season everyone stays really close.
TKS: How has it been playing under Coach [Ashley] McDonough?
CS: It has been good; I really feel like I’m in shape. I was great friends with [former head volleyball coach] Shayla [Chalker], but Ashley is so driven towards winning that the attitude has been infections. We had to learn how to win. We were so used to showing up and being embarrassed. We know how to lose: When we’re down by so many points, it doesn’t bother us.
TKS: How has the team responded to the loss of [sophomore] Rose Griffin?
CS: We didn’t want to let that loss define us. It took us a couple days to regroup, but after the Cornell game we made a conscious decision to move forward. Rose is a great player, and is still leading the conference in hitting percentage, but we just didn’t and don’t have the bench to replace her. We couldn’t afford any injuries, especially not someone as good as her.
TKS: Has volleyball been a big part of your Knox experience?
CS: Absolutely. Some of my best friends have been on volleyballÉ I’ve put so much time into it, and not in a bad way at all. I don’t regret any time I’ve spent in the gym, in the weight room or on the track.
TKS: What are your favorite memories from Knox, both sports and non-sports?
CS: I love Flunk Day. There’s something so Knox about it. There’s no specific day that stands out, but I just remember dancing on the soccer fields and feeling awesome. As for sports, when we beat Lake Forest this year I cried. They always put out a really good team and to see how we’ve progressed against them… It’s a picture of how our team has progressed. They embarrassed us early on, we took them to five sets and lost last year, and then this year we were able to beat them in five.
TKS: Do you have any plans post-graduation?
CS: Right now, I’m thinking environmental education or conservation work, but that’s something that’s subject to change real fast. I just want to teach outside, in the mountains if I can. I just want to plan my life around being outside as much as possible.
TKS: Do you know what you’re studying for your senior research yet?
CS: Turtles! I planned my senior research around going to Green Oaks and then I just decided I wanted to study turtles. I’m interested in animals and just want to study animal behavior… They’re so interesting. They can survive for three to four months without breathing at like four degrees Celsius. It’s insane.
TKS: Have athletics and academics melded for you, or are they separate entities?
CS: I do much better in my classes when I’m in-season. I know I only have so much time to get my work done, so during the season I focus more and my work is in on time.
TKS: Has Knox prepared you for life post-graduation?
CS: I think it has. I feel like I was supposed to come here in a lot of ways. I changed so much as a person; I gained so much confidence, made so many connections, bettered my social skills… It’s funny that we all came to Knox. We’re all learning how to be social with one another. We’re just a whole mess of people who are trying to figure it all out.