During the final games of her volleyball career at the University of South Dakota, senior and outside hitter Audrey Reeg said she couldn’t have been more pleased to be a Coyote.
Reeg has been playing volleyball for about 12 years. She said she likes how “different” the sport is.
“I just like how fast-paced it can be and how competitive it is and that it is a team sport,” Reeg said. “I really just fell in love with it when I first started.”
Reeg said one of the harder things about playing volleyball is the effort needed during practices, especially during an “off” day. She said that even during a day when she wasn’t feeling 100-percent, she still had to try to “build up energy to try and motivate” herself.
Something Reeg said she struggled with is getting out of the “funk” of not starting out well during practices and games, but being motivated helped her stay focused during her 12 years as a player.
“I have a tendency to lose my confidence rather quickly, so getting that back and bouncing back quicker is something that I struggled with, definitely,” she said. “Trying to do your best in that moment is important.”
Playing as a Coyote
Reeg played libero during her freshman pre-season and then was moved to outside hitter once again during conference play, which is “what she was used to.”
Reeg decided USD was a good fit for her because of the atmosphere and the instant connection she had with the volleyball team. She visited the campus as a junior in high school, which was the first chance to meet the team and coaches.
“I was just really in love with the campus,” Reeg said. “I asked (the team) a lot of questions and they gave me good answers and I thought I would fit well.”
The coaches are also what kept Reeg at USD.
“(The coaches) seemed to fit me well as the coaching style that I prefer,” she said. “I prefer coaches that aren’t all up in your face all the time and yelling at you — that’s not what’s going to get me going. I’ve been blessed with great coaches—no problems there.”
Head coach Leanne Williamson has been with Reeg for four years, starting out as assistant coach and then taking over as head coach during Reeg’s sophomore year.
Reeg was forced to make an adjustment to Division I volleyball when she first arrived at USD.
“It’s much more competitive,” Reeg said. “It’s like a job, but you have to enjoy it. It’s a lot more intense, practices are much more intense. You’re year-round with practicing, you’re with the same girls… It’s definitely a bigger time commitment in college.”
Reeg also said facing bigger, more challenging opponents was a big change for her, but something she appreciated.
“You’re seeing more competitive opponents and that’s obviously more fun than playing someone that isn’t at the best level or playing with people that aren’t at the greatest level,” Reeg said. “Playing next to people that you know and trust are going to do their job on court and do it well is much nicer.”
During her final season as a USD athlete, Reeg said the team this year was “special” to her.
“The girls all knit very well and our chemistry was,” she said. “You couldn’t match it anywhere else.”
Striving for greatness
During her final season as a USD volleyball player, Reeg was named Summit League Player of the Year, a “huge goal” of hers coming into the season.
“Just to make that happen was really awesome,” she said.
Reeg said one of her greatest accomplishments has been starting in every match as a freshman. She also said she was “excited” to surpass 1,000 kills and digs.
“That’s a big milestone,” she said. “Especially to get (it) in college.”
Williamson said one of Reeg’s greatest strengths is how well she understands the game.
“She has a very high volleyball IQ,” Williamson said. “I’m not really sure she knows how smart she is when it comes to volleyball, but she makes it simple.”
Williamson also said Reeg developed a natural leadership as a senior toward the other teammates.
“Her teammates respect her,” Williamson said.
During this season, though the team didn’t get the championship they aimed for, Reeg said they “made a lot of history.”
“We set a lot of records, and all that is great, but, in the end, I’m just happy that it was with these girls and how well this season was,” she said. “This team was the greatest that I’ve been on in that we meshed so well together. I’m really happy with how well this season turned out.”
Reeg said before practice or a game, she tells herself to “give it her all” and “give as much as she can at that moment.”
“I try not to be to hard on myself, but that’s usually not the case,” Reeg said. “I just try to, before I play, fill my head with positive talk and just tell myself, ‘You’re gonna do good.'”
As an athlete, Reeg said she believes in “school first,” and balancing school and volleyball was something she had to adjust to.
“It definitely took some learning,” she said. “My freshman year, I didn’t do too well just with time management and getting into the flow of harder courses in college and the bigger time commitment of volleyball. But, after freshman year, I started to get the hang of it.”
Reeg said giving herself discipline helped her with her academics and athletics.
Williamson said, as a student, Reeg worked hard in her studies.
“You never have to worry about what she’s doing in the classroom,” Williamson said. “I think people respect her because what she’s done and the work she puts in. She really is the true definition of a student athlete.”
Reeg takes her days off to work on homework and catching up on rest, but said it’s hard to stay busy when she’s not playing or practicing.
“Off days are tough because I almost don’t know what to do with myself,” Reeg said. “If I don’t have homework to do, I’m usually pretty bored. It’ll be interesting this next semester to see how I’ll do without any volleyball. Volleyball definitely takes up a huge time commitment.”
Looking to the future
After graduating college, Reeg looks forward to playing in leagues for fun at local facilities.
“I’m not really planning on going pro or going overseas or anything like that,” Reeg said. “I’m really happy with the 12 years that I’ve had, and I’m not ready to move on, but I’m ready to start new chapters in my life, but obviously keep volleyball in my life.”
Though her plans are to play volleyball on the recreational side, Reeg still wants that competitive side, too.
“Skill-wise, I won’t lose too much, hopefully,” Reeg said.
Reeg said volleyball has impacted her “so much more than she knows” as a person.
“It’s helped me to become a leader, and just gain qualities on how to encourage others, and trust is huge,” Reeg said. “It’s definitely impacted me on being disciplined — you have to have a lot of discipline in practices.”
Williamson said the past four years of coaching Reeg has been “fun.”
“Audrey is a special person,” Williamson said. “I really enjoyed coaching Audrey these last four years. I’ll definitely miss her going forward. She had quite a lasting impact on the program here.”
Playing at USD, Reeg said, always got better every year.
“Occasionally, you’ll find girls that will start to lose their love for the game and it just becomes a job to them, but for me, I came to love it even more,” Reeg said. “These past four years, really, I couldn’t ask for anything more.”