Shy and explosive. Two words that generally aren’t used in the same character description, yet when the self-proclaimed “shy” Kendall Knop takes to the volleyball court, her game is nothing short of explosive.
Knop’s career began in the third grade when she first started to play competitively. Knop remembers staying after school to watch the team’s volleyball practices. “I was one of those people where I was like, ‘I want to be that good.’ I would watch the older girls and I would want to be them,” she stated as she reminisced on the moment she first began to fall in love with the game. Growing up in Strasburg, Illinois—a town of just over 400 people—Knop has become accustomed to that small-town feeling, so when she first came to Blackburn, she felt right at home. “I like small, I’m from a very small town and a small high school. I like the small class sizes, that’s probably a big factor,” she said.
Another major factor in Knop’s decision: distance. After her two years at Lincoln Land Community College, she had a few other options on the table, and all except one were within three hours from home, so naturally, she chose Blackburn. “My parents, I don’t know if they’ve ever missed a sporting event… I don’t want to go somewhere where they can’t go to every game. They hate missing even the little things.”
In addition to her family ties, opportunity was another force that drove her to Blackburn. “In a year and a half, I won’t be able to play ever again and that’s what keeps driving me. Last year I thought maybe I’ll just go to school somewhere close to home and not play and get a job, but then I [thought] ‘I literally have two years left, two years since third grade. That’s crazy to me, and I don’t want to stop.”
It’s hard to fault Knop for choosing to stay close to home. After all, home is where the heart is. It’s even harder to fault her parents for never wanting to miss an opportunity to watch her play. “Kendall is a hard-working, dedicated and reliable teammate,” said senior volleyball player Alexis Dick. “She goes after every ball and makes every hit work, even when a pass or set isn’t perfect. There is a natural unspoken bond between her and I, and there is no one else I trust more on the court than Kendall. I am lucky that I had the chance to play my last season with her,” Dick stated. A versatile, hard working, all-around player, Knop has the ability to drop the jaws of the entire crowd with just one hit. It’s incredible to watch her work and almost impossible to believe how in one simple, fluid motion one person could generate so much power. Throughout matches, it’s hard to ignore the question commonly circling the stands, “How did a player like her, end up here?” One word: love. A love for the game and a love for her family.
Over time Knop—like many athletes—has learned a deeper lesson from sports. “You have to learn how to work with people and that’s the biggest thing. I’ve learned how to be a leader too. Most of my life I’ve been super shy and I’m still super shy but once I’m on the court, it kind of disappears and I feel like a leader. I can be myself and branch out.”