Volleyball Adds Experienced Transfer
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Heading into the 2015 season, Kansas volleyball had just one senior on its roster. Thanks to the latest addition, incoming transfer Anna Church, the Jayhawks’ upcoming senior class doubled in size.
A native of Fairway, Kansas, Church joins the Jayhawks after three years at Saint Louis University. In her time with the Billikens, Church tallied 1,073 career digs and 75 career aces. Last fall, she recorded a career-best 465 digs and 4.04 average for the season to rank third in the Atlantic-10 Conference. Her talent is a big pick up for Kansas head coach Ray Bechard, but he is equally impressed with what she brings away from the stat sheet.
“There’s an opportunity to add someone who has a great deal of experience, who is from this area and who grew up loving the Jayhawks,” Bechard said. “She’s obviously been successful at the level she was at and was looking for more challenge, more opportunity. We like all the intangibles she brings. Being a little bit void of upperclassmen, we thought it would be a benefit to our team to have somebody that has had experience playing at a high level.”
Church played in all 31 matches for the Billikens in 2014, helping them to a 21-10 record. Eight different times she posted 20 or more digs on the season on her way to a personal-best 465 total. The year before, Church led the team with 346 digs, including a career-best 30 digs against volleyball power Northern Iowa. The 30-dig mark set a new record in SLU’s Chaifetz Pavilion. In her rookie season, Church led the Billikens with 24 aces and proved to be one of the most versatile players for SLU, finishing fifth on team in kills per set (1.39) and fourth in digs per set (2.54).
“For me it was really about being the most competitive that I could be, and KU is really at that level,” Church said. “Kansas is finishing high in the Big 12 and has gone to the NCAA Tournament the last three years. That’s something I would love to do. Growing up, I watched my sister (Jackie Church) at Wichita State go to the NCAAs and I kind of took it for granted. I feel like you don’t understand how big of a deal it is until you don’t get to go. I really want to make it to the NCAAs and be a contributor on a big team.”
Descending from a long line of Jayhawks and Jayhawk fans, Church said her parents, Dan and Diane, were supportive of her decision no matter where it ended up. The fact that it brought her to Kansas is a bonus.
“KU was the perfect choice for me, I have family that went to KU, my twin brother goes here and it’s been home for me,” Church said. “I grew up a Jayhawk fan, went to basketball games and it’s just like coming home. It’s been really good.”
According to Church, her twin brother, Gabe, was a major fan of her decision to become a Jayhawk. He is excited to be just a short walk away from the Horejsi Family Athletics Center, where he plans to be at every match. Gabe is a majoring in business and engineering, while Anna is working toward a degree in business marketing.
In high school, Church played for a Bishop Miege program that claimed four-consecutive Kansas 5A state championships and won three Eastern Kansas League crowns. She was selected to the 2010 and 2011 All-State Tournament team, the 2011 all-conference first team, the 2010 all-conference second team and the 2011 Large Class Missouri-Kansas Tournament All-Star team. A Bishop Miege co-captain as a senior, Church was an Under Armour All-America nominee and an Evelyn Gates Award nominee and was a member of the 2010 USA Volleyball A2 team.
Multi-talented and athletic, Church captured the Class 5A 800 meters state title in 2008 and 2010. An accolade machine, she also set the Bishop Miege pole vault record, earned first-team Johnson County All-Star laurels in 2008 and 2009 and was named All-Metro honorable mention in 2008 and 2010.
That list of accomplishments and accolades made her a perfect candidate to start at a Division I volleyball program. She chose Saint Louis University, and while she loved her time there, Church knew there was one more step she wanted to take.
“I decided that this is my last chance to make it what I want it to be and to have the senior year that I’ve always dreamed of,” Church said. “So I decided to take that chance. I loved Saint Louis, it’s an amazing school and I had amazing experiences there that I wouldn’t trade for the world. I became a better player and a better person there. I loved my teammates there and I’d like to thank the coaches for all the time I spent there and the work that they put into me. I hope they understand where I’m at and that I wouldn’t be who I am today if I hadn’t gone there.”
Church and the Jayhawks are already busy in the gym, training for their upcoming spring schedule.
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