Oct. 24, 2007
Motivation, dedication and determination have long been a part of senior Maura Kelly's makeup. Whether it's in the classroom or on the volleyball court, Kelly has always had the drive to succeed and during her four years at Lafayette has taken advantage of every opportunity to make sure she is successful now and well into the future.
Kelly, a Psychology major, has been a member of the volleyball team since she stepped foot on College Hill in the fall of 2004. She made an immediate impact on the squad that season, appearing in 75 games a rookie and averaging 1.45 kills per game, an average that led all freshmen that year.
The senior leadership on that year's squad left a lasting impression on Kelly. Captains Erin Brune and Heidi Olichwier demonstrated what it meant to be true team players. Brune struggled with injury but never let that negatively impact the team as she instead rooted for and helped lead the team from the sidelines. Olichwier had a solid senior season, seeing playing time in a team-best 105 games while showing the team what it took to be successful on the court.
The student manager on that team, Kate Walkenhorst, also had a lasting impact on Kelly. Walkenhorst played volleyball as a freshman but injuries forced her to the sidelines. Rather than leave the team and her friends behind, she stayed on with the Leopards as a student manager during her junior and senior seasons. Like Brune, she was a role model for the rest of the team on how to deal with adversity and her role morphed into one of coach.
"Kate was a great senior role model and a great coach," Kelly said. "She gave the team a lot of great feedback, especially to the freshmen."
After the seniors graduated, Kelly continued to develop her skills and that development was reflected in her continual improvement on the court. She appeared in 59 games as a sophomore and had a breakout year as a junior, averaging nearly two kills per game and tallying 62 blocks. Her play and her personality earned her the distinction of being named a captain for this season, her final one on College Hill.
This season has brought her playing career full-circle, as she and the rest of the seniors recently reconnected with an old friend. Walkenhorst now works in the White House and was able to meet up with the team when Lafayette came to town for a Patriot League match against Navy earlier this season. Walkenhorst treated the Leopards to a tour of the grounds--including the Garden Tour--prior to their match against the Midshipmen.
Kelly and the rest of her teammates were thrilled to play the role of tourists, if only for an afternoon.
"It was great having Kate as a tour guide because she was able to tell us all about the different buildings and things like that," she said. "The afternoon was a lot of fun and there were a lot of team photo opportunities."
Walkenhorst serves as an example to the players of where a Lafayette education can take them after graduation if they are willing to put in the effort during their college years. While combining academics and athletics can be challenging, Walkenhorst is proof that hard work does pay off.
"I think being a student-athlete is actually a real advantage and Kate is a good example of that," Kelly said. "Student-athletes are forced to develop good time management skills which we'll use after college and I think a lot of us would agree their grades tend to be higher in-season because of that."
Trips like the one to D.C. aren't common, so players learn to enjoy and take advantage of those special opportunities. Last season the team traveled to Florida in what was the first plane trip since Kelly joined the team in 2004. The Leopards competed against tough competition at the season-opening Jacksonville Tournament. It was an exciting and challenging start to the 2006 season, one that provided Kelly and her teammates with lasting memories and allowed an already close team to become even closer.
"We all really love volleyball and we're all really committed to the team," Kelly said. "It's one of the big things that keeps us all here and playing volleyball--our commitment to the sport and the fact that we're all friends."
Kelly's opportunities to learn and travel have extended far beyond those she's had with just the volleyball team. Last year, she studied abroad in Florence, Italy for a semester. While psychology courses weren't offered during her time there, she was able to take classes in art and art history, a passion that translated into yet another academic opportunity for Kelly.
"I was able to take some art history courses in Italy and now I'm actually an art history minor in addition to my psychology major," she said.
After returning to the states, Kelly spent last summer working at a camp called Harbor Haven in Marlboro, N.J. and it was a life-changing summer. The camp works with children who have mild to moderate special needs or learning disabilities. Kelly, who at the time was still unsure of exactly how she wanted to use her degree after graduation, said she discovered her future career field during her time at the camp.
"I worked in a group with four other counselors with a group of 10-11 year-old boys who has Asperger's Syndrome or autism. It was a really great experience," she said. "It was certainly challenging but also very rewarding at the same time. I came out of it knowing that I want to work with children when I graduate."
Not only will Kelly graduate from Lafayette with an idea of where she hopes her education and time on College Hill will take her, but she also leaves with other intangibles no one will ever take away. She has skills and memories that will last a lifetime and serve her well in her career. Perhaps just as importantly, Kelly, like Walkenhorst will serve as a role model for the freshmen on this year's team on how far they can go if they follow Kelly's example.