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Jackson volleyball’s Kamryn Link to continue career at College of the Ozarks

Jackson volleyball senior Kamryn Link officially signed a national letter of intent with the College of the Ozarks in February. Pictured in the front row from left: Nathan Gautier (brother-in-law), Kristen Gautier (sister), Kamryn Link and John Link (father). Back row: Julie Kinneman (Pursuit Volleyball club director), Brad Wendel (former Jackson assistant coach), Dave Mirly (Jackson head coach), Stacy Muckenthaler (College of the Ozarks head coach), Morgan Copeland (College of the Ozarks assistant coach) and Maile Gannon (Pursuit Volleyball club coach).Not pictured: Wendy Link (mother). Submitted photo

After helping Jackson volleyball reach the Class 5 quarterfinals for the third year in a row this fall, Indians senior Kamryn Link put pen to paper to continue her playing career at the next level.

Link, who was named the 2022 SEMO Conference Setter of the Year, signed with the College of the Ozarks (National Christian College Athletic Association) earlier this school year.

“It’s another stepping stone to me, and I think this is a great opportunity for me,” Link said. “Being able to go out in a sport where not many kids play collegiately is a big thing. The campus is beautiful, and I had one of those moments — I walked into the gym, and I just knew this was going to be my home for the next four years. I’ve never felt that way in any other gym.”

Kamryn began her college search to play volleyball after her sophomore year when she was set to take over as Jackson’s starting setter her junior campaign. Link was set to replace a setter in 2021 graduate Madelyn Bourner, who recorded 1,043 assists her senior year in 2020.

“I did a lot of stuff online with NCSA (Next College Student Athlete) and Field-Level — that helped me a lot,” she said. “I’m so blessed, and I’m at a loss of words because this is so unreal to me. I sat through my brother and sister’s signings, and I never thought this would be me someday.”

Kamryn used to think she was going to be a “basketball star,” but after a career with the Indians and building into the player she is today through Pursuit Volleyball, she knew hitting a ball was more for her. Both Jackson’s head coach David Mirly and Pursuit’s club director Julie Kinneman are the two coaches she credits the most for her growth through volleyball.

“Those two have been a great help and believed in me all the way through — it’s amazing,” Link said. “I started volleyball in fifth grade with Julie Kinneman and The Little Diggers program, and she has high expectations.

“She has the same expectations for her high school kids that she has for her Little Digger’s kids — that set the tone. She’s serious, and I need to be serious. I always thought I was going to be a big basketball stud, and here I am.”

Link described Kinneman as being like a second mom for her and that she has always believed in her, but she also pushes her players. Kamryn said that she knows that Coach Kinneman pushes each volleyball player that comes through Pursuit so hard out of love.

Along with being named setter of the year in the SEMO Conference, Link ended her high school volleyball career as a two-time all-conference and Class 5 District 1 All-District selection. Kamryn produced 1,700 assists in her two years as a starter with 993 as a junior and 707 this fall.

“You have to have confidence and know that your teammates look up to you,” Link said. “Don’t let that bury you away from having confidence, and also just play the game. Let the game come to you and don’t try to force it.”

Link had three of the best hitters in Southeast Missouri to get the ball to this fall in juniors middle blocker Nadia Wasilewski (Wichita State commit), outside hitter Ella Domian and sophomore outside hitter Katy St. John. Kamryn was also one of the Indians top defenders as she finished fourth in total blocks (48) and fifth in digs (126).

“A majority of us play in Pursuit, and we kind of grew up playing against each other in practices,” Link said. “We all knew of each other, and this year our team was mostly seniors and juniors. We were together in junior high and knew each other for so long. There was constant competitiveness in practice, but we all ended up being friends afterwards — there’s no hard feelings.”

Through Link’s two years of varsity, Jackson won back-to-back district and conference tournament championships, while the program also won the SEMO Conference regular-season title to sweep the conference this season. The Indians finished with a combined record of 61-11-7 with Link as their setter.

“I really think that the tight-knit and close friendships that we all have with each other helped us on the floor,” Kamryn said. “In previous years when I was in junior high watching, I didn’t really see a lot of that. Now that we have that, I feel like it allows us to move more as a unit instead of as individuals.”

Link said her favorite part of volleyball is prior to each game when everyone is “getting in their zone,” which helps her prepare mentally that it’s game time.

Kamryn also loves when anyone on her team does something good and she and her teammates will constantly cheer that player on. Link added, “There aren’t many sports out here that do that, and I feel like that makes volleyball special.”

When she’s not on the volleyball court, Link will be pursuing a career in elementary education. Kamryn wants to become a teacher since “her whole family” are educators, but she also has some nephews at home that she’s fond of.

“I just love them — I love seeing when they get to learn something new and that light bulb goes off in their head. That’s exhilarating to me,” Link said.

For anyone that has either played with or against Link in any sport, they know one thing — she’s tough. Kamryn credits having this attribute to her father John, who used to be a basketball coach when she was growing up.

“He was passionate to say the word,” Link joked. “Growing up in that household, you kind of saw that, too, in a good way. When you’re playing a game, and he’s out there and you fall on the floor, he gives you three fingers. It means, ‘Suck it up.’

“It’s tough love, and I feel like going into volleyball, you have to have a poker face. You can’t show when you’re frustrated — you can’t show when you’re upset because that’ll kill your momentum. I kind of learned that from that, having a poker face.”

Nick McNeal covers high school sports, college sports and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Cape Girardeau County for the past five years. He can be reached at cbjsports@socket. net.

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