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Behind the Scenes with women’s volleyball middle blocker McKenna Vicini

Recognizing the work behind a student-athlete’s successes

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On a typical day during competition season, athletes are often forced to choose between grabbing dinner with friends or heading back to the dorms to work on homework. After hours of practice for rising sophomore McKenna Vicini, a middle blocker on Stanford’s women’s volleyball team, the only option is often to finish the readings she started during breaks at practice.

This work-practice balance paid off for Vicini last year when she won her first NCAA Championship as a freshman. 

As the nation’s all-time leader in NCAA Championships, Stanford consistently dominates the competition on and off the playing field. Stanford’s student-athletes rank amongst the best in the country, but achieving that caliber is often fraught with challenges. 

“I’ve had to learn how to multitask; [I] would be writing a paper while I’m eating the required athlete breakfast that I had to eat. I would have Quizlet up on my phone while I’m getting treatment on my ankle. And then doing homework up until the last second before practice starts,” Vicini said. 

She and other Stanford athletes have to rapidly flip the switch in-season, from completing a p-set or studying for a test, to the imminent match or afternoon practice. Through balancing both academic and athletic pursuits, student-athletes have to quickly learn the art of time management — all while demonstrating a high level of focus and hard work at practices daily.

Stanford’s student-athletes break records and receive incredible accomplishments year after year, with Stanford currently holding one of the most distinguishable streaks in collegiate sports — by winning at least one national championship for 44 consecutive years

Even with the conclusion of their season, student-athletes still train regularly throughout their offseasons in order to stay competitive. In light of the uncertainty surrounding collegiate sports this upcoming year due to COVID-19, Stanford athletes face the added burden of having to train independently while also preparing for any circumstances. 

“I switch between weight lifting, yoga and some barre,” Vicini said on a Zoom call from her home in Lexington, Kentucky, where she continues to maintain social distance while working out. 

This time last year, Vicini was already on campus, training with her entire team in preparation for their eventual championship-winning season. This year, however, due to the pandemic, she has switched to training without her teammates to maintain her high caliber athletic abilities while away from the Farm.

Although the Pac-12 announced last Friday that the start of athletic activities will be pushed back indefinitely, Vicini is excited to return to campus, once it’s safe, to keep working hard on her training. 

Despite the uncertainty surrounding her upcoming volleyball season, her goal remains the same: to once again win the NCAA championship with her team. 

Contact Lydia Chen at lydiac123554 ‘at’ gmail.com. 

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Lydia Chen is a high schooler writing as part of The Daily's Summer Journalism Workshop.