Girls volleyball: New Trier grad Kathryn Polkoff fine-tunes game for Illinois
New Trier's Kathryn Polkoff spikes the ball against Glenbrook North's Whitney Landman during the semifinals of the New Trier tournament on Saturday. | Dan Luedert~Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 10, 2012 6:05AM
WILMETTE — Kathryn Polkoff switched from Energy Volleyball Club to Rolling Thunder Volleyball Club before her final club volleyball season and is currently preparing to change teams again.
Polkoff leaves for the University of Illinois this month.
“I’m a little nervous, but I think that’s how it should be because the team’s really good,” Polkoff said.
Playing at Illinois, last year’s NCAA runner-up, will allow Polkoff to experience a higher level of volleyball, something she tried to prepare for by switching to Rolling Thunder’s 18 Blue team and its roster full of collegiate talent.
“I wanted something with a little bit more competition and I think I found that,” Polkoff said. “We were playing really good teams throughout the season and everyone on our team was getting ready for something bigger next season.”
Along with facing tougher competition, switching to Rolling Thunder meant more practices, more conditioning and more traveling for the 2012 New Trier graduate.
More time spent on the court allowed Polkoff to use the seven-month club season to improve each facet of her skillset while also bonding with the team’s other eight players.
“Club season is really where I do my learning,” said Polkoff, a Wilmette resident. “I just wanted to get better through the whole season, specifically through blocking, footwork and my approach. But really just learning, playing and reading the game — I tried to get better at volleyball as a whole.
“I was welcomed into the program and my team was great. I love every single one of the girls and we had a great time. I learned a lot and I think everyone on my team learned a lot.”
Polkoff helped Rolling Thunder 18 Blue go 10-1 at AAU Junior Nationals. The team finished ninth overall in the 18 Club Division.
Once Polkoff played her final AAU match, her attention shifted to preparing for collegiate volleyball. She’s been completing the workouts her Illinois coaches have issued, while also spending time in the waning weeks of summer with future Illinois teammate Julia Conrad, who graduated from West Chicago this year and played volleyball with Club Fusion.
Polkoff and Conrad met during the club volleyball season after they had both committed to play volleyball for the Illini.
Polkoff preferred Illinois because it’s relatively close to home and has in-state tuition.
“It really came down to Illinois and Cornell,” Polkoff said. “They were schools I looked at all along and I felt like at Cornell it would have been volleyball and school and that’s it. I wanted to branch out and make friends and have the social aspect of college as well.”