The daughter of two former collegiate volleyball players, Elizabeth Juhnke is continuing the Juhnke legacy as an outside hitter for USD.
This year, the women’s volleyball team welcomed five freshmen to the roster, including Juhnke. However, something makes this six-rotation outside hitter stand out.
The six-foot Lakeville, Minnesota product through 20 games this season has tallied 285 kills (fourth in the Summit League) and 3.9 kills per set (second in the Summit League), both team highs, to help the Coyotes to a 19-1 overall record.
“I see the court from all angles and I think that helps me as a player. I can see when [fellow hitter Sami Slaughter] is front row and when she’s hitting, I can see what’s open and then relay that to her,” Juhnke said.
Junhke’s recruiting process began her sophomore year, where she sought the same culture at the collegiate level that she played in at Lakeville North High School in Minnesota.
There, the two-time all-state selection managed 1,513 kills, 1,059 digs, and 152 blocks as a four-year varsity starter. She earned Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year and Pioneer Press Player of the Year honors in 2017 after Lakeville North secured a state championship.
Raised in a suburb of Minneapolis, Juhnke wanted to change scenes and pursue her volleyball career in a college town rather than a metropolis. Vermillion was a nice fit.
“Coming in, I sat with the coaches, I saw how it was a true family environment,” Junke, now majoring in nursing, said. “Our coaches care a ton about us and they care truly about who we are as people and not just ‘Oh, they need to be good volleyball players on the court,’ and that’s a huge part that drew me here.”
Just two months into her freshman season, Juhnke already possesses a ‘one-day-at-a-time’ mindset. The Coyotes are amid a 16-game win streak, surpassing a school record set in 2007. Ask Juhnke, though, and she can’t recall her team’s record.
“I know it sounds cliché to say, ‘oh we don’t focus on that it’s just one game at a time,’ but honestly that’s what it is,” Juhnke said. “I know that every game we go into we’re trying to go 1-0.”
One aspect Juhnke’s worked hard to improve is her serve. It’s something a player should have total control over, she said. It’s something she’s struggled with for the last few weeks.
At the beginning of the year, she served with a jump; now, she’s switched to serving on the ground.
“We go into practice and I’m confident in myself, but then we get into a game and I’m not as confident,” Junke said. “I’ve struggled with it in the past, this isn’t the first time,” said Juhnke. “I think it’ll come with time, I’m not too worried about it.”
Nonetheless, Juhnke said she has a “family” of teammates and coaches behind her back for support.
“I feel like I’ve known these people forever and I would do anything for them and I think that I would get the same back from them,” Juhnke said.
Juhnke said head coach Leanne Williamson, who led the Coyotes to their first NCAA Division-I tournament appearance last season, is one of her biggest supporters and always understands what her players are going through.
“It’s not like she’s oblivious to things. She knows how to push us,” Juhnke said. “She knows what to say to us in the huddles when we’re struggling, she knows how to keep pushing us when we’re doing well and to keep getting better with every ball, and I just think that she’s phenomenal.”
Juhnke uses volleyball to get her away from the world, she said, and she’s happy that escape brought her to Vermillion.
“It’s honestly all I know,” Juhnke said. “It’s always been my release from school, friends; it’s somewhere where I can go out and just be myself, I feel like I don’t have to hold back from anything I can go out and just have fun and play carefree.”