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All-American Eaken Ready for New Challenge
July 30, 2014
By Kelly McHugh
Kali Eaken has been waiting a long time to be a Wildcat.
The freshman setter from Kansas City, Missouri, committed to K-State volleyball during her sophomore year at Bishop Miege High School and, despite recruiting efforts from other schools around the nation including Oregon and Louisville, Eaken knew from the start that K-State was the place for her.
Named the 2013-14 Kansas Gatorade Volleyball Player of the Year and a member of the 2013-14 First Team Under Armor All-American team, Eaken helped Bishop Miege to a 34-10 season and a Class 4A Division 1 state title during her senior season.
The All-American preferred K-State because of its proximity to home while it also gives her the opportunity to continue her successful volleyball career.
"I chose K-State because it was both close to home and when I came here for my first visit, it was just a really good fit," explained Eaken. "I knew this is where I wanted to be and where I wanted to play for the next four years."
In her senior season, Eaken was named the Kansas Volleyball Association 4A-1 Player of the Year after recording 1,128 assists, 168 kills, 43 blocks and 39 aces. The player of the year honor culminated her Bishop Miege career in which she was named first team all-state three times and earned a No. 27 national ranking in the 2014 recruiting class, according to PrepVolleyball.com.
But her high school excitement didn't stop there.
In December 2013, after she was named to the Under Armor All-American team, Eaken traveled to Seattle, Washington, where she attended the NCAA Volleyball Final Four. While in Seattle, she and her fellow All-American honorees took part in skills competitions and played in an All-American exhibition match.
"They flew us up to Seattle and we got to play in the Under Armor All-American Game," Eaken explained. "I got to play with all these girls I saw in club and who were really, really great players. It was a great experience."
The experience not only helped Eaken sharpen her skills as a volleyball player, but it also helped with her transition at K-State. Though it was a single match, competing in Seattle provided Eaken the chance to train with volleyball players she had never played with before. She compared that experience to her transition at K-State.
"Coming here not knowing anyone, that trip to Seattle prepared me a little bit," said Eaken. "Getting used to playing with people I'm not used to playing with, branching out and getting used to being uncomfortable; it was like being a freshman. It was uncomfortable and it was new, but you have to get used to it."
While stepping foot on campus may have been uncomfortable in the beginning, that's just not the case anymore. K-State volleyball welcomed six new freshmen to this year's roster, and Eaken said the group overcame its early transitional struggles together.
"You all bond because, especially the first week here, we had no idea what we were doing or where we were going," she laughed. "We bonded through that; getting to know each other and being uncomfortable together. It helps a lot to have people going through the same things you are going through."
Now, nearly two months since she arrived in Manhattan, Eaken is comfortable at K-State and is ready for the season to begin. She has been dreaming of playing volleyball in Ahearn Field House for a long time and now the imagining is soon to become more of a reality.
"It's going to be really cool," Eaken said, envisioning her first match on K-State's home court. "I've been waiting for this for quite a few years now, so it's going to be really intense. It's hot in there and the fans are awesome; so I'm just really to have the opportunity to play at Ahearn Field House."
Passionate about volleyball, Eaken's presence on the K-State roster is one Wildcat fans can look forward to. Describing herself as a fierce competitor on the court, the next chapter of Eaken's volleyball career is just around the corner, and she is ready to go.
"I've been playing volleyball since the third grade, and it means everything to me," Eaken said with a smile. "I've put my whole life into playing and getting better, it's just what I love to do. On the court, I'm really competitive; I'm always passionate and ready to go. I'm just ready to come in here, work hard and give everything I've got."
K-State volleyball begins its 2014 season on August 29, with a trip to Green Bay, Wisconsin, for the Green Bay Invitational. Hosting the K-State Invitational, the Wildcats' first home matches will take place in Bramlage Coliseum from Sept. 4-6. For more on the 2014 K-State Volleyball schedule, click here.