To excel at competitive volleyball, starting at a young age is typically a requirement. Even for those who pick up the game before they reach middle school, long-term success and a collegiate career are anything but guaranteed. In this respect, freshman right side hitter Kendall Peterkin is an anomaly. Whereas most of her peers started before their 10th birthdays, she didn’t begin playing seriously until her freshman year of high school.
Peterkin started off playing basketball and soccer but, she said, “They were not my thing. I couldn’t dribble and run at the same time.” As a six-footer in fifth grade, it almost seems as though she was destined to end up on the volleyball court; however, she wasn’t introduced to the sport until a middle school gym class put a volleyball in her hands.
“I played for a little bit in middle school, not thinking I was going to pursue it as a sport,” she said. “I was on the lowest team; freshman year, I played JV.”
But that all changed when she was contacted by her high school’s varsity coach, encouraging her to play beyond the school season.
“She said I should really try out for club, just for experience,” Peterkin said. “As I continued to play and got better and better, I started to think, ‘Hey, this is something I could really be good at.’ ”
She joined a club team and found herself falling in love with the game. “I think those years from C-team [freshman year] to the varsity squad really defined my progress,” she said. “It really pushed me, because if I could do that in just a few years, I could just imagine what I’d be able to do in college if I push myself further.”
Since that first year of JV volleyball, Kendall has improved at an astonishing rate. She has ascended the ranks of high school volleyball excellence and now is a major contributor for the Tigers, especially while attacking, where her height allows her to hit over opposing blockers.
Peterkin’s hitting prowess has been a major part of Princeton’s offense this year. Her 3.20 kills per set place her second in the Ivy League, behind her teammate, senior outside hitter Lydia Rudnick, at 4.37. A strong hitter from all areas of the court, Peterkin also ranks in Princeton’s top five of most major statistical categories.
Despite her early success, she doesn’t consider herself a star, but rather a piece of the Tigers’ puzzle.
“As a freshman coming in, I wasn’t sure how I’d fit into the team. I tried to give support, and I still try to do that. I honestly didn’t think I was going to play this year because there are a bunch of good players on this team. I’m really honored to have a role on the court, and I try to play hard and lead by example.”
Coming from an athletic family — her mother played tennis and rode horses, and her father played ice hockey — Peterkin always had a strong support network for her athletic endeavors. Her parents, though, let her forge her own path in the sports world while helping her balance academics and athletics.
Her sport of choice has affected Kendall’s life on a much deeper level. Her younger sister, Devon, also plays volleyball, and this connection has helped the siblings foster a strong bond.
“Before, when we played different sports, we kind of did our own things,” Peterkin said. “But now that we both play volleyball, playing in the backyard and me giving her advice … that led to more personal conversations, because we realized we had a lot in common.”
Although Peterkin — whose other talents include rock climbing and piano playing — only started seriously playing volleyball less than half a decade ago, the game has already been ingrained in her life. She has also wasted no time becoming ingrained in the Tigers’ lineup, and with three-and-a-half seasons ahead, opposing teams will have to watch out.
Original URL: http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2012/10/18/31561/