BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
PCC EDITOR – Just two years into her collegiate volleyball career, Mikaela Foecke, a national high school volleyball standout, is dripping with humility.
Fresh off the University of Nebraska’s loss to No. 4 Texas (25-18, 25-23, 25-21) in the semifinals of the NCAA Volleyball tournament where Foecke led the team with 13 kills, the 2014 Holy Trinity grad is back home looking for a little down time and a recharge.
The 6′-3″sophomore outside hitter received honorable mention for the NCAA Volleyball All-American squad. She was selected Third Team All-American in 2015 as a freshman.
But she said the loss is just a step in the process of being a collegiate athlete.
“The season didn’t end like we had hoped it would but we were able to make it to the semifinals,” she said. “We just weren’t able to shut down their outside game and we got too frantic at the end, we didn’t play Nebraska volleyball. But you live and learn and hopefully learn lessons we can take into next year.”
The ‘Huskers won the national championship in 2015 and Foecke was named the NCAA Championship Most Outstanding Player, becoming just the third freshman to earn the honor after recording 19 kills on .385 hitting in the championship win over Texas. It was the Longhorns that knocked Foecke and the Huskers out in three straight sets, the first time the Huskers have lost in three sets all year.
Nebraska went 31-3 on the season with losses to Ohio State in four sets and No. 2 ranked Minnesota in five sets. They also beat both those Big Ten schools by the same scores this year.
“I don’t think we really could have asked for a much better season outside of winning it all. One of our losses was to Minnesota at No. 2 and the other was to Ohio State and they both played great,” she said. It was a great season and we got Nebraska’s only Big Ten Championship.”
After receiving national recognition and accolades, and leading Holy Trinity Catholic to the school’s only state championship, Foecke says the change really hasn’t been that dramatic for her.
“You know, going to Nebraska wasn’t that big of a change,” she said. “It’s a lot like Iowa and the people back home and I wanted that same type of environment and I got it. There’s a saying here that there’s no place like Nebraska. At first I was a bit skeptical, but now I completely understand. There are so many people helping us and wanting us to succeed. It makes the transition much easier that’s for sure.”
She said one of the changes that has been a bit more trying is the travel and time away from school, despite being named to the Nebraska Scholar Athlete Honor Roll in the fall 2015 semester and spring 2016 semester.
“I think just the travel is a bit harder,” she said. “In high school you travel, but not very far and don’t miss much school,” Foecke said. “In college we’re gone almost every weekend and typically the Friday before. That’s a lot to take on. You’re missing all this class and you have to balance that.”
But she said the support system with the Huskers is strong and there are people who help her with staying focused on her courses and she’s able to stay in touch with her professors even when she’s not in class. Foecke is majoring in animal sciences.
According to the PrepVolleyball Magazine Foecke was the No. 2 player in the country coming out of Holy Trinity. She was also named the Gatorade National Player of the Year as a senior after totaling 812 kills, 270 digs, 170 aces and 95 blocks, and leading Holy Trinity Catholic to a 48-4 record. She was also named the PrepVolleyball.com National Freshman of the Year and a third-team All-America and was a unanimous Big Ten All-Freshman Team selection.
Foecke says she does try to stay in touch with former teammates including HTC senior Ali Randolph, but her schedule keeps her very busy.
“A little bit. but not a whole lot.” she said of staying touch. “I have a few friends that are still on that team. I like Ali Randolph a lot.. she’s a good friend.”
As far as the accolades, Foecke said they are really awards she shares with her fellow Huskers.
‘It means so much, but I couldn’t do it without my teammates. They put me in a position to go up and swing away. I think that with any personal awards you get whether it’s All-American or not it’s definitely a team award. It takes all six players on the court.”
When asked about whether she had any Olympic aspirations, Foecke used perspective there as well.
“I think everyone does and hopefully it will work out some day, but definitely something I’ve thought about,” she said. But indicated that it’s almost unheard of to do that before you get out of college.
A lot of her success she credits to her family and coaches. Foecke said Melissa Freesmeier helped position her for this success.
“She coached me all four years in high school. I was very glad to have her as a coach. Without her I wouldn’t be where I am today,” Foecke said.
She also said if wasn’t for her parents constant support things would have been almost impossible.
“I’m just thankful for for everything they do for me. They travel a lot and it means so much to me that they are there. This year they even came out to Penn State,” Foecke said. “I’m very lucky they are able to travel.”
For the 2016 season, Foecke played 117 sets, averaged 2.9 kills per set, .07 assists per set, .2 aces per set, .8 digs per set, .4 blocks per set and 3.4 points per set. She was 2nd on the Huskers in attacks with 829, points with 393, kills with 343. The Cornhuskers went 31-3 on the season with their only regular season losses to Ohio State in four sets and No. 2 ranked Minnesota in five sets. The Huskers also beat those teams during the season by the same scores.