After three-straight years of leading the Jackson volleyball team to 30-win seasons as well as the Class 5 State Quarterfinals, 6-foot-1 junior hitter Nadia Wasilewski now knows where she will play college volleyball — Wichita State of the American Athletic Conference.
There was no question where if Wasilewski, who is a three-time SEMO All-Conference and Class 5 District 1 All-District honoree, was going to play Division-I volleyball. The only question was where.
Southeast Missouri State (Ohio Valley Conference) was the first school to offer Nadia, and she also had a visit to Old Dominion (Sun Belt Conference) prior to her final college visit at Wichita State. Upon her visit with the Shockers, Wasilewski basically knew immediately that it was the school and volleyball program for her.
“I saw the girls practice for a little bit, and it was loud and intense — it’s exactly what I was wanting,” Nadia explained. “I kind of knew right then and there, but it still took me a couple days to actually accept their offer because you want to think about everything. I was pretty much dead set when I walked in the gym, though.
“Volleyball is loud, intense and fast. I thrive in that type of environment because that’s what I like. Especially at a high level, that’s pretty much where I do my best.”
Playing in a conference like the AAC was a big selling point for Wasilewski because of how competitive it is. Wichita State (18-13, 13-6 AAC) finished fourth in the conference standings behind No. 17 ranked Houston (30-4, 19-1), No. 22 Central Florida (28-2, 19-1) and unranked Southern Methodist (22-10, 15-5).
“It’s very competitive — everyone is close together level wise, so every game is going to be really competitive,” Nadia said. “Aside from the program and the culture, the coaches made me feel wanted. I felt that they saw my potential.”
Wichita State is getting a player in Wasilewski that has been nothing short of dominant in her first three years with the Indians, who have also won three conference tournaments and two conference regular-season titles during her career.
One way Wasilewski has been separating herself from the competition even more is by now playing club volleyball for High Performance based in St. Louis. Nadia was previously playing for Pursuit Volleyball Academy.
“It’s a big commitment — I go up there twice a week and it’s long hours,” she said. “I’ll go till like 10:15 p.m. and get home at midnight, but I decided, ‘OK, this is my goal, and I’m going to go for it. I’m going to make the changes I need to.’ Pursuit was great for me, though, to get me started and pretty much taught me everything I know.”
Wasilewski knew High Performance was the club for her solely based off the players she competes with every time in practice. Nadia said they indeed make her a better player and that she hasn’t faced the level of competition she’s seeing now.
“Going to all these tournaments has me like, ‘Wow, this is what it’s going to be like in college,’” Wasilewski said. “I love it — I love playing at a high level. It’s definitely harder and faster, but that’s what I was looking for and needed to do in order to reach my goals.”
This past fall, Nadia recorded career-highs in nearly every category as she continued to be one of Jackson’s leader in kills with a career-best 243. Along with that, Wasilewski finished a hitting percentage of .353, besting the career-high .261 average she set her freshman year.
“I’ve done a lot of training just to improve my vertical, and my hitting technique,” Wasilewski said. “This year, I’m going to work on hitting high even if the teams we play don’t get so high. In college and club, girls get so high on the net you have to swing over them. You can’t just bounce balls constantly because you’re going to get stuffed.”
While Nadia has always been a force at the net attacking the ball, she became even more of a force in the front row by becoming a bigger presence defensively. Prior to her junior campaign, she had never recorded more than 27 total blocks, but Wasilewski recorded 83 this fall.
“I matured with everything, and I learned how to be a better blocker with getting across the net more rather than high,” Nadia said. “We’ve been working on that a lot in practice, and that’s something I focus on a lot — I work for it, so I can become better. That’s with every skill, too.”
Wasilewski also returned to serving the ball more than she did her sophomore season by finishing with 52 aces compared to the five she had in 2021. Nadia came up with a 88.0 serve percentage, which tied the average she set her freshman year.
Nadia played more in the back row for Jackson in the fall to record 54 digs and is ready to continue playing in both the front and back rows for her final season.
“With serving, I feel like usually I didn’t serve because of the back row aspect, and I really worked hard every day in practice to play there,” she said. “I’d say to myself, ‘OK Nadia, focus on your passing. This is what you need to get better at.’ I improved so much through the school year, and that’s what I’m working on a lot right now.
“Up there with High Performance doesn’t put you in a box and tell you, ‘Oh, you’re tall, so you can’t pass.’ They let you and it’s great because I love it. Hopefully, I can play all-around this school year, but we’ll see.”
Wasilewski first started playing volleyball in third grade with SMASH Volleyball until sixth grade when she joined Pursuit. There was only one 12U team for Pursuit then, and Nadia was only going to play basketball after that if she didn’t make it on the team.
“Basketball was my thing, but I made the team somehow — I don’t really know how probably because I was tall,” she joked. “After that I was like, ‘I kind of like volleyball, and it just grew from there.”