LAKE CHARLES, La. – While admitting to the occasional bout of homesickness during her first two years at McNeese State, there is one time that Rachel Cagnina is overjoyed that she is residing down south.
“In the winter when we are not getting any snow,” Cagnina said. “I enjoy that a lot.”
The Glenbard North graduate is getting ready to begin her junior season as a member of the Cowboys’ volleyball team. Over the first two years, Cagnina has been a major contributor, starting 28 matches as a freshman and 31 last fall.
“It has really flown by,” she said. “When I took a step back and looked, it’s amazing I’m already a junior.”
From the moment she began her collegiate career, Cagnina noticed a big change.
“It’s a lot different than high school,” the junior said. “Players come from all over the U.S. It’s tough, and the competition is definitely a step up. I’ve never done anything this intense before.”
The time commitment at the college level is also vastly different, making the balancing of volleyball and academics a challenging one.
“We practice 20 hours a week during the season in addition to the matches,” Cagnina said. “In the spring, we have morning workouts Monday through Friday and then we practice in the evening for three hours.
“My freshman year, it was kind of tough to get with it (the scheduling) but I’m really organized. By second semester, I got my schedule down and I haven’t had any problems since.”
An outside-hitter by trade, Cagnina prides herself on being an all-around player and never coming off the court.
“I take pride in my position and being able to play the front and back row,” she said.
The Carol Stream resident spent time at home in the early part of the summer before going back to school July 19. The political science major will return to the Chicago area with her teammates to kick off the 2013 season August 30-31 against Chicago State, DePaul and Providence at the DePaul Invitational. Cagnina believes her junior season could be something special.
“I think this should be a pretty good season,” Cagnina said. “We have a bunch of new people and I like where the team chemistry is. I think we will do a lot better than we did my freshman and sophomore years.”