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Life, Lunch and Laughs with Volleyball's Freshman Class

October 8, 2007  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Rebecca Waneka (left), Nicki Scripko and Karyl Bacon (right foreground) have helped the Liberty volleyball team go 12-7 to start the 2007 season.

Rebecca Waneka (left), Nicki Scripko and Karyl Bacon (right foreground) have helped the Liberty volleyball team go 12-7 to start the 2007 season.

The Liberty Lady Flames have enjoyed an influx of young talent on the volleyball court this season, with the addition of three freshman players to the roster. Karyl Bacon, a native of Temecula, Calif., is already making a name for herself in the conference, after being named the Big South Freshman Player of the Week on Aug. 27. Nicki Scripko of Fayetteville, N.C., is excelling for the Lady Flames at the right-side hitter position, while Rebecca Waneka, hailing from Colorado Springs, Colo., has brought depth to the team's defensive line-up.

Recently, caught up with the freshman trio to chat about their first year as Liberty netters. As the three swapped sandwiches, they spoke about how they have been able to support each other and contribute to the Lady Flames' early-season success.

(KB = Karyl Bacon; NS = Nicki Scripko; RW = Rebecca Waneka)

What brought you to Liberty University?
KB: A lot of the decision had to do with volleyball and the school atmosphere. It is just where God led me. Everything was pointing to Liberty.
RW: For me, volleyball and the girls on the team were the main deciding points. When I visited, I liked how the players worked well together and seemed to have a really good relationship.

How did your career in volleyball begin?
RW: I used to play soccer, and I think I just got tired out. I played volleyball on the side, because my mom introduced me to the sport. My eighth-grade year is when I decided to really pursue volleyball.
KB: I started playing volleyball in sixth grade. My sister was on our middle school team, and I wanted to be like her. So, I picked up volleyball. At one point, I had to choose dance or volleyball, and that was my big turning point. I chose volleyball, and it has been volleyball ever since, lots of volleyball.
NS: For me, it has always been volleyball and softball. Actually, I always wanted to play softball in college. My mom played volleyball in college, but that didn't really influence me. I had to choose what I wanted. Volleyball is indoors (laughing) ... and I excelled faster in volleyball.

Was there an adjustment coming up to play at the college level?
NS: The game is just a lot faster. At first, we were kind of like, "Ooh, we are playing college ball now." RW: It was intimidating at first. After we got the hang of it, we got used to the level of play, though.
KB: The first time we started practicing, we kept telling each other, "I can't believe it; we are really doing this. We are doing the whole college thing." It was fun, scary, exciting and a whole bunch of different emotions, all at the same time.

What would you say is the best part about being a college athlete?
All three: The clothes!
RW: I like staying busy. There is really no free time for athletes. I like doing stuff all the time … and staying in shape!
KB: You get to meet all the other athletes and get pretty close with them. You know people right off the bat around campus.

Obviously, with practice, workouts and travel, volleyball requires a huge time commitment. How do you balance volleyball and school?
NS: We hold each other accountable. We always write out lists and make plans. We plan out every day exactly what we are going to do. We pretty much all have the same schedule, so we can hold each other accountable.
KB: And we don't watch TV. We don't have cable or anything. Otherwise, we might be in trouble.

When you do have free time, what do you all do for fun?
NS: If we have extra time, we will have a movie night.
KB: We like hanging out with the friends we made during summer school. The last weekend before pre-season training, we went to Nicki's house for the weekend. We had a total slumber party.
RW: We got our make-up done.
NS: We just ate good food and watched movies. It was fun.

What role have your families played in your college career?
RW: We are all really big family girls. My mom and my dad, they are both really supportive. They trust me in the choices I have made and just led me the right way growing up. I still talk to them quite a bit. KB: My family is a source of reason. My mom will tell me to try this, or my dad will say, "What if Coach is looking at it like this?" So it is just a different perspective, which helps. Both my mom and my older sister are really good examples of how I want to live my life, too. Their relationship with God and the things they look for in life are selfless. I love them a lot.
NS: My family has always been supportive. They promised to be at every match. My parents have "adopted" Karyl and Rebecca, too, since their families live further away.

The three of you seem really close. How has it helped you in your first year here at Liberty?
RW: I think they have helped me to get through all of it. It is nice having a strong connection with girls who are your own age.
NS: In our bad days, we know we have each other. We're just like, "Okay, we can get through this!" because we are all in the same boat.
KB: We have really bonded and become close. It is easy for us to talk to each other. It is easy for us to have a good time with each other and to laugh. However, it is also easy for us to go to each other if we really need help, just need to get something off our chest or break down and cry.

It can be hard leaving home for the first time and even tougher with all of the pressures of being a Division I college athlete. What have you learned from the experience so far?
NS: I've learned to totally rely on God, since we've had some rough days, tough practices and hard schoolwork. There have been some tough times, but those are the times which make you stronger.
KB: I've learned responsibility from being on my own, far away from my parents, and having to handle school and the responsibility of getting my work done. Plus, with volleyball, you are responsible for taking care of your part and if you don't, that affects the team in a negative way.
RW: After my knee injury, it was hard for me to come back. So, I had to work really hard at getting my confidence back. I learned a lot from hearing what my parents went through. They both had tough times growing up, so they taught me to just bounce back.

Each of you has had to deal with some injuries this year—Nicki, coming back from shoulder surgery, Rebecca with your knee injury, and Karyl, spraining your ankle. So, how have you been able to bounce back?
RW: Praying, a lot of praying. It's hard to get back into playing. It is just frustrating mentally every now and then. I just figure it could be much worse, and that's how I stay strong.
KB: We try to be smart about what we do off the court, too.
NS: Yeah, we don't do anything too crazy.

When you take the court, what do you see as your role on the team?
NS: To put balls away!
KB: It is to pass, to hit and to be vocal, and just to be consistent. We are on the court and we have a job to do. We are expected to get it done.
RW: I try to keep everyone positive. On the sidelines, I just like to encourage and stay positive and pump up the girls.

What do you all need to do as a team in order to win the Big South Conference title this year?
NS: Stay connected. We hear that every day. It just means always staying focused and staying encouraging, no matter how you are playing. Don't get down and get quiet. We need to be constantly talking to each other and picking each other up.
KB: You have to put the team before yourself.

This tight-knit freshman class is already doing just that and contributing in a major way for the Lady Flames in their quest for the Big South Conference title this year. Together, the trio holds the promise of great things in the future of Liberty volleyball. In the words of Karyl Bacon, they are "a force to be reckoned with."

Interview Conducted by Mollie Richards
Athletic Media Relations Student Assistant for Volleyball