Katie Koerper is taking her passion for volleyball to the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.

Koerper, a 2018 St. Croix Central graduate, is a walk-on with the Phoenix volleyball team.

She is a spirited individual and she put her mind toward this goal long ago.

"Playing Division 1 (volleyball) was my dream since seventh grade," Koerper said.

It took a bit of good fortune and persistence for this connection to happen. Koerper said her dad found out that UW-Green Bay had hired a new coach, Abbey Sutherland, at the end of February. Koerper received an email from Sutherland soon after.

At that point, Koerper had narrowed her choices to Wisconsin state universities in River Falls, La Crosse or Green Bay.

"Once I went on my visit (to Green Bay), I decided it was where I wanted to go," Koerper said.

She was invited to walk on, because there were no scholarships available for this season, but will be given the chance to earn a scholarship in future seasons. Koerper received the offer based on recommendations from coaches.

"She hadn't seen me play and already she had faith in me as a player," Koerper said.

Koerper said she likes the idea of competing at Division 1, because the program offers academic advisors and free tutoring. The volleyball players are also expected to sit in the front three rows of every class.

Koerper plans to study secondary education at college to become a high school teacher. She'd also like to eventually become a volleyball coach.

While her physical volleyball skills have advanced every year, so has the mental side of her game. She said competing in the Kokoro Volleyball Club helped her to learn the importance of being a leader on the court and keeping up the spirits of her teammates.

"I like to cheer others on and have fun. I'm usually pretty good at lifting others up," Koerper said.

Volleyball has helped Koerper grow as a person. She said she was "super quiet" in middle school and as a freshman, when she was the only freshman on the Panther varsity team. Koerper went from quiet to fearless, saying running hurdles in track helped her to become unafraid. She was also recruited for track by Southwest Minnesota State, but knew early on that volleyball was the sport she wanted to pursue.

Koerper is spending the summer working to further her skills. She started the summer with a vertical jump of 28 inches, but wants to add four more inches to that height. She started the summer competing at AAU Nationals with her team from Kokoro. That team is coached by R.T. Luczak. Luczak and his wife, Jennifer Brathol, are owners of Kokoro. Brathol is the last St. Croix Central graduate to play volleyball at UW-Green Bay.

"R.T. has helped my skills so much. Without him, I don't think I'd have gone to Green Bay," Koerper said.

That led to Koerper sending two videos to the Green Bay coaches, one from her high school season and one from her Kokoro season, to show how far she'd come since the end of the high school season last fall.

Koerper is especially looking forward to one date on the Phoenix schedule this fall. Green Bay will play at the University of Minnesota in a tournament on Sept. 13-14 and she's hoping to see Panther fans there.