Sophomore Nicole Burns is not your average athlete.
She came into the realm of sports later than most, starting her volleyball career during her junior year of high school.
“Volleyball just really clicked with me,” Burns said.
At the time, their team was nothing spectacular, but just one year later, they would head to states, finishing fifth in Pennsylvania.
As many Eastern students cheer on the sideline, they already know how exciting this year’s season has been.
“It’s been amazing,” Burns said. “We are all really getting to know each other on a deeper level this year. It’s helped us to become so much stronger as a team.”
Of course, her personal achievements have been a great asset on the court as well. Burns’ rankings of 49th in the nation for hitting percentage and 28th in the nation for blocks per game are certainly things to be proud of.
However, when asked about her own success, Burns said, “We are playing for each other, not for ourselves. I can’t do anything without the rest of my team, and they’re the ones that have helped me become the player that I am.”
Volleyball head coach, Mark Birtwistle, has focused his efforts on uniting the team this season. “He’s been a big motivator,” Burns said.
With regard to teamwork, Burns said, “He’s the one who planted the seed, and we ran with it.”
In four years, Burns has gone from stepping out onto the volleyball court for the first time to competing in the NCAA tournament. “I’m really excited to see how far we’ll go,” she said.
Burns, who is preparing for a career as a substance abuse counselor, has all the tools for success: a willingness to learn, a strong spirit of teamwork and a natural talent that will certainly carry her far.