The fairytale season of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln women’s volleyball team has been well documented. Although the team had five seniors on the roster coming into this season, the program’s turnover was notable. The 2017 recruiting class brought five new members to the team and the Huskers needed to replace four starters from last season. With two new assistant coaches also fresh to the program, the 2017 season looked like it could be a rebuilding one. Senior team captain and master of arts in business administration (MABA) student Kelly Hunter had other ideas, however.
“A lot of people used the word ‘rebuilding’ when previewing our team last year,” said Hunter. “But we kind of wore that and took it personally. We had so many new faces and a couple new coaches who had their own ideas, so on paper it looked like a rebuild. We just took that as a challenge.”
A fifth-year senior who has been through the ringer, Hunter had been depended upon to take a leadership role on the team. She helped the team form a greater camaraderie through team-building activities last summer, bringing them closer as a unit. They came up with a team motto, “With Each Other, For Each Other,” that the team presented in a PowerPoint presentation and dance to Nebraska Head Coach John Cook and his staff.
“Coach thought that presentation was the coolest thing he had ever seen,” she said. “We could tell early on that we had a special group and had a chance to have a great season. We didn’t have that one star player who gets all the attention. In the past, we had players that needed to be called out more than others. This year we all just held each other accountable and that speaks volumes about the culture we have at Nebraska volleyball.”
Hunter graduated from the College of Business in May 2016 with a degree in marketing and management. To continue her education and keep herself eligible for her redshirt senior season, she enrolled in Nebraska’s MABA program. She carried a 3.45 GPA in the classroom on her way to being named a first-team member of the CoSIDA Academic All-District 7 volleyball team. Her experiences as a leader on the court translated to the classroom and vice-versa.
“From participating in our discussions in class, I am able to bring a different perspective than other students. I’ve never had a job, so all the questions like ‘name a time when your manager did this,’ I relate to in different ways. I don’t have a manager, but I have a coach. We have learned so much about leadership and our ability to perform under stress on the court. A lot of management is leadership, and business is a lot of management,” she said.
Before the season, Coach Cook called Hunter into his office and told her she needed to be better this season. She stepped up to the plate, leading Nebraska volleyball to its third straight Final Four and second national championship in three years. The senior exits as a two-time AVCA All-American and finishes in second place in career assists (4,041) in school history. In terms of what’s next for the senior setter and master’s student, her volleyball career will continue.
“This summer, I will be going to Anaheim, California, to train with the U.S. National Team. From there, I plan to go overseas to play professionally in Europe. Playing in Italy is something I would love to do, because of the pasta, obviously,” said Hunter.
As for what she will do with her degree when she finishes playing volleyball, Hunter knows she would love to work in a collaborative environment and work her way up to a management position in an organization. Regardless of what she chooses to do, the Papillion, Nebraska native certainly has the credentials to thrive in a leadership role, according to one of her management professors.
“Kelly has been an outstanding student and it was a pleasure to have her both in undergraduate and graduate courses,” said Dr. Regina Frey, visiting professor of management for the College of Business. “She is engaged, thoughtful and a great leader in the classroom. I have no doubt that she will be successful in any career path that she chooses."
To learn more about graduate programs at Nebraska, visit: business.unl.edu/gradprograms