leads by example
By Abby Zylstra
Promoting volleyball isn’t something Kara Kuipers takes lightly. As freshmen, she and future co-captain Kristin DeGroot walked around campus with volleyball hats and giant cardboard signs advertising an upcoming game.
Three years later Kuipers’ stats did all of the promoting for her. The 6-1 middle hitter, finished among the national leaders in blocks-per-game (1.52) during the 2004 season and was named to the All-MIAA first team for the second straight year. In addition to leading the league in blocks-per-game for the second straight year, she also finished among the MIAA leaders in hitting percentage and kills.
During the season, she was honored as MIAA Player of the Week twice recently and received all-tournament honors at tournaments hosted by Elmhurst University, Colorado College and Calvin College. At the Pikes Peak Challenge Invitational hosted by Colorado College Labor Day weekend, Kuipers was named tournament MVP after leading Calvin to a first-place finish.
Kuipers also played a key role in helping Calvin capture the 2004 MIAA tournament title with 14 kills in a four-game upset victory over nationally ranked and previously unbeaten Alma College. The MIAA tournament title gained the Knights their second NCAA III tournament bid in the last four years.
Kuipers graduated from Unity Christian High School (Hudsonville, Mich.), where she played volleyball for four years.
“Our team wasn’t that strong. What we lacked was a really good setter,” said Kuipers. “It was still really fun, but I wanted more.”
Although Kuipers became a four-year starter at the middle-hitter position for Calvin, she tried not to let sports influence her decision on where to attend college.
“A Christian school was really important, and I knew I wanted to be a teacher,” said Kuipers. “Calvin had that.”
Although her mother is a teacher’s aide, it wasn’t her mother that influenced her decision to become a teacher. “My older brother, Kevin, is a teacher,” said Kuipers. “I always looked up to him.”
During her freshman year, Kuipers had to tutor for one of her education classes; she tutored first- and second-year Spanish students. That’s when she decided on her major in education, with a Spanish focus.
To enrich her Spanish education, Kuipers spent a semester in Spain. “It [going to Spain] changed me as a person,” said Kuipers. “My friends, my boyfriend, my family couldn’t be there. It really challenged me as a person.”
Kuipers said she wasn’t satisfied just knowing she could do the grammar and the book work of the Spanish language. “I had to know I could speak with confidence,” Kuipers said. “I would go again if I could. It was awesome.”
Kuipers’ leadership will be missed on the court next year, said Calvin volleyball coach Amber Warners. “Kara is the epitome of what a coach wants to coach,” she said. “I never have to tell her to work harder. She’s a wonderful example—verbal and action. She’s probably one of the most respected players on and off the court.”
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