Inside look at USI volleyball player

Meredith Harris

At 6-foot-2, Abbey Winter uses her height to gain an advantage on the volleyball court, and family genetics play a big part in it. Winter is one of a line of tall people in her family. Her father stands at 6-foot-4, her mom at 5-foot-11, and her brother measures in at 6-foot-4 as a sophomore in high school.

“Every time I would dive for a ball, my teammates (would) make fun of me because I’m so tall,” the sophomore pre-social work major said. “It’s just so awkward.”

Winter is ranked in the top five blockers in the nation and has Academic All-Great Lakes Valley Conference Honors.

Winter is a hard worker, which lead her to be one of the top five blockers in the nation, Head Coach Leah Mercer said.

Her height is an advantage because it makes hitting and blocking easier, Winter said.

“In high school, my friends used to call me ‘Tree,’” Winter said. “Everyone in high school used to call me that.”

Although her USI teammates occasionally call her ‘Tree,’ they usually call her “Winty” because of her last name, she said.

Some people may be intimidated by her height.

“I’m not really sure, but I hope so,” Winter said.

Winter used to play basketball in high school.

“Every time I’m out in public everyone always asks me if I play basketball,” Winter said. “And I say no, I play volleyball. I don’t understand why they always ask me that.”

Winter quit basketball her junior year of high school to focus on volleyball.

“That way I can concentrate on one sport and not have to worry about another one,” Winter said.

As a volleyball player, she enjoys meeting new people, getting blocks, cheering with her teammates and watching her team succeed.

“Well, I’ve been playing since the fifth grade. So ever since then, I have loved the sport,” Winter said.

In addition to her love for the sport, Winter also loves her major. Her favorite class this semester is introduction to social work because she finds it interesting to learn about the different types of social workers and what they do.

Winters believes the statistics in regards to how many children are abused and homeless are interesting and plans on making that her focus after she applies to the social work program this spring.

When not focusing on her academics, Winter likes to spend time with her teammates and watch scary movies and chick flicks or hang out at the library.

“We hang out on the court, obviously,” Winter said. “And off the court we’re always together. They’re like a family to me.”

It’s not just her fellow players that she considers to be like family, however. She likes the coaching style because they don’t get too mad and yell at the girls, but they tell her how to fix her mistakes.

Mercer said sometimes she feels like a surrogate mother to the volleyball team.

“(To) this group, especially,” Mercer said. “We’ve gotten so close this year.”

Mercer has watched Winter grow in the past year.

“She’s become a lot more confident in herself, which is huge,” Mercer said. “She came in with the ability. She’s gotten physically stronger there over the past two years, just knowing that she can, knowing that she is one of the best at this level and believing in herself has done a lot for her.”

Winter’s confidence has paid off. She was selected as the first USI volleyball player to earn All-Region honors since Danielle LaGrange in 2011. Winter leads the GLVC and ranks third nationally with 1.43 blocks per set. Her play this season has been key to the Eagles’ run at the NCAA II Midwest Region Tournament. The tournament begins Dec. 5 in Allendale, Mich.