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Knight Performs Double Duty

Sunday, June 02, 2013

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By Lynn Bolt Rosendale

Julia Hilbrands doesn’t like to quit things once she’s started. “I’m a very driven person,” she said.

That personality trait is exactly why Hilbrands has found herself in a key role for two highly ranked programs at Calvin—volleyball and basketball. At one time both NCAA III teams were ranked No. 1 in the country, and Hilbrands was technically a member of both.

“I played both of them in high school and never ruled either of them out,” said Hilbrands, a graduate of Grand Rapids (Mich.) Christian High School. “I think most people expected me to play further in basketball, but once I started in volleyball I didn’t want to give it up.

“I made commitments to both of the programs once I got to Calvin, and I like to finish things that I’ve started,” she said.

As a 6-1 versatile middle and outside hitter, Hilbrands was instrumental in leading the Calvin volleyball team to an MIAA championship and national runner-up finish this season. She was fifth on the team with 183 kills and a .260 attack percentage; she also tallied 116 blocks. She was named to the All-MIAA first team for the first time in her career this year.

“Some people like to think of her as a very good basketball player, who also plays volleyball,” said Calvin volleyball coach Amber Warners. “I like to think of her as a very good volleyball player who also plays basketball.”

Those who think of her as a very good basketball player would also be correct. She was named to the All-MIAA first team last year, averaging 8.9 points and 5.9 rebounds a game.

“For the past four years, Julia has been one of our hardest workers in the program,” said Calvin women’s basketball coach John Ross. “Julia is very coachable, is a great leader and brings a positive and upbeat attitude to the locker room. She has given us a strong and physical presence in the post.”

“She always has been an excellent rebounder, but last year she really helped give us a big boost in the scoring area. She has managed both sports very well and only focuses on each sport during its season, and balances both sports evenly in the off season.”

While Hilbrands admits the transition from volleyball immediately to basketball can be intense initially, it takes just a few days to completely make the switch. “I think being involved in both sports benefits both sports,” she said. “The two sports work different muscle groups, but things like jumping and reaching definitely carry over.”

And with the success of both teams, Hilbrands has taken part in seven post-season tournaments. “I’ve been there a few times before, so I think I definitely know how to handle the pressure. That’s a benefit,” she said.
Warners added that it’s Hilbrands work ethic that has put her at the top of both games.  “Julia is one of the most low-maintenance players I have ever coached,” she said. “I have never seen her stressed about her sport or about her work load outside of volleyball.”

When she’s not busy on one court or the other, Hilbrands makes good use of her time. She is a biology major with a minor in public health. She hopes to pursue graduate studies in public health after graduation.
Despite the heavy course load and two sports, Hilbrands never feels overwhelmed: “It’s more joy and excitement that I feel to be able to play here. Playing athletics at Calvin is a huge blessing.”

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