Katie Oleksak leaves her mark amidst senior season

Angel Cooper

Balancing the responsibilities of being a student-athlete can be very challenging, but if an athlete is passionate about the sport they are playing, anything is possible.

Katie Oleksak has been the starting setter for the Colorado State volleyball team for four years now and is a team player willing to do whatever it takes to make sure her team wins.

Ad

She jumps well. She blocks well. She gets the balls that other setters can’t get to. she is fast. she looks beautiful in what she does. -Head Coach Tom Hilbert 

Originally from Phoenix, Arizona, Oleksak made a major decision in coming to Colorado. She wanted to attend a university that would give her a different environment while providing excellent academic opportunities for her major.

“I think (CSU) is a great place, and I wanted a well-rounded experience,” Oleksak said. “I can have this with my major and all the outdoor activities. Also, I’m from Arizona, so it is not too far away from home, so my parents can still come to a bunch of games.”

Oleksak’s major is health and exercise science, and working with people is her specialty. She plans to go into nursing with aspirations to become a nurse practitioner. Oleksak tried getting her nursing assistant certification this summer, but volleyball conflicted with it. Although she was unable to become a CNA this summer, Oleksak has obtained clinical experience through other means.

Teamwork is essential to Oleksak, and having strong relationships with her teammates contributes to her performance on the court.

Paulina Hougaard-Jensen (11) and Katie Oleksak (22) leap to block a spike from a University of Colorado Boulder player, as they play at home. The Rams defeat the Buffs three sets to zero.
Paulina Hougaard-Jensen (11) and Katie Oleksak (22) leap to block a spike from a University of Colorado Boulder player. The Rams defeat the Buffs three sets to zero. (Devin Cornelius | Collegian)

“It helps that we have grown up, especially the senior and junior class, we have grown up together,” Oleksak said. “We played all four years together, and that really helps us grow closer, and those bonds are created off the court too. We all hang out. We all go to the football games together, so it is really fun to be with this team and to be close.”

Amidst a 13-game winning streak, it’s clear the Rams share an incredible bond. Oleksak’s personality stands out; she helps push her teammates to keep fighting. Outside hitter and teammate Jessica Jackson can attest to this.

“Katie (Oleksak) is different; her personality is different from everyone else,” Jackson said. “She is a different gal.”

Head Coach Tom Hilbert describes Oleksak as dynamic, based on the skills she brings to the court.

“She jumps well. She blocks well. She gets the balls that other setters can’t get to,” Hilbert said. “She is fast. She looks beautiful in what she does.”

Being a student-athlete comes with a lot of responsibilities. Not everyone can handle the duties. It may be challenging, but Oleksak finds some ways to overcome it.

Ad

Oleksak has different schedules for every day of the week. For example, her Thursday itinerary includes a lab from 7:30 a.m.-12:15 p.m., practice at 12:45-3 p.m., a trip to the training room for rehab or ice after that and then preparation for home games up until 7 p.m. In between those times, she might have time to eat.

setter sets
Katie Oleksak (22) sets the ball in a match against the University of Northern Colorado Bears. (Luke Bourland | The Collegian)

This schedule sounds draining, but it is all worth it for Oleksak. She loves volleyball. Things are bit challenging, but Oleksak has routines to help her stay balanced.

“A lot of self-care: taking a bath or journaling or listening to music or relying on the people around me, like my teammates, during those rough times,” Oleksak said. “They get it, and that’s how I cope with it.”

Not everyone is going to understand what a student-athlete goes through, but having a team to support a player when things are rough helps them feel recognized and know that they aren’t alone.

Angel Cooper can be reached at sports@collegian.com or via Twitter @angelcooper05.