Welcome to the 2020 football season. What a weird offseason it was for everyone. There was not a summer camp circuit for players to go showcase their talents at. In-person recruiting came to a screeching halt and the COVID-19 Pandemic has affected everyone.
Senior setter for the The Woodlands High School, Natalie Kimmel, committed September 14 to the University of Incarnate Word (UIW) in San Antonio, Texas. UIW is the largest Catholic university in Texas and is the only Catholic NCAA Division 1 program in the South.
Kimmel has been playing volleyball for nine years, starting when she eight-years-old "trying different sports with (her) best friend and (has been) playing ever since." Kimmel was addicted to the "adrenaline and excitement" that came with "winning a point after a long rally because everyone is genuinely happy in the moment." Her favorite memory is qualifying for nationals when she was 15 because "after a long, tiring day of competitive games, it was all worth it in the end," when they were medaled and received their trophy. Kimmel has been playing for the Woodlands Revolution Volleyball Club for six years and considers the coaching staff "family."
Kimmel knew when she turned 16 she was interested in extending her volleyball career into college as she "couldn't picture giving up the game after high school." She began the recruiting process by creating play highlight reels, sending out emails, and getting in contact with Revolution's recruiting coordinators. "COVID completely slowed down the recruiting process" for Kimmel as she wasn't able to make any college visits her Junior year due to safety reasons and colleges being unsure on whether or not they are going to have a fall season to begin with. She was in contact with five schools interested in recruiting her including UIW, Brown University, Belmont University, Houston Baptist University, and the University of Louisiana at Monroe. Going into her senior year, Kimmel still wasn't allowed to make any school visits during the pandemic due to NCAA rules, but instead took a drive through tour of UIW prior to the recruiting process. She fell in love with the campus, saying "it felt like home." Kimmel ultimately decided on signing to UIW because of the "great coaching staff, the beautiful campus, and the convenience of being only three hours from home.
Kimmel plans on studying rehabilitative science for pre physical therapy because she is passionate about working with athletes and aiding them through their injuries. This also came into play in her recruiting process, as she wanted to make sure the university had a good medical program and offered her major; which UIW did.
Kimmel said the most difficult aspect of the recruiting process is being able to picture yourself playing for the team and living on the campus, while ensuring its the best decision for four years of your life. "The best aspect of being recruited is the notifications that schools had emailed me or viewed my profile which would always give me an adrenaline rush."
She believes that her positive attitude and determination sets her apart from other players. Kimmel lives by the motto "volleyball is supposed to be fun, if you aren't happy, then what's the point of playing?" She believes smiling and celebrating every single point as the only attitude you should have on the court.
Kimmel believes that although COVID ended her 17s club season and delayed her school season, she ultimately grew substantially as a player in quarantine as she learned of the extend of her love for the game and practicing more independently growing her mentality. She is hopeful that COVID will die down by the start of her 18s club season so she can enjoy her final season in club.
When asked what she is going to miss most about The Woodlands High School, Kimmel responded "the friendships I've made with my teammates both my age and younger. They have always been there for me when I needed them the most and it's going to be difficult not seeing them everyday."
Kimmel is looking forward to the workouts, the sisterhood, and the growth as a player at UIW. She said "I am so blessed to have this opportunity and am extremely excited to learn from the amazing coaching staff."