UTSA volleyball Head Coach Laura Neugebauer-Groff had the challenge of replacing one of the best players to wear the Roadrunners uniform. Last season, senior libero Kelsey Jewasko set the new UTSA career record for digs with 2,280. Jewasko was also a two-time Southland Libero of the Year and earned first-team All-Southland team honors. Freshman libero Annie Kunes from Fontana, Wis. was recruited to be a part of UTSA’s future. Neugebauer-Groff has already been impressed with her leadership on the court.
“When I saw her [Kunes] play for the first time I was sold. She is a vocal leader. She is the true spark plug for our team,” said Neugebauer-Groff. “She’s carrying a big load for this team and she can handle it.”
“I expect a lot from myself. I’m really not about statistics but to keep the energy up is my main goal on the team,”said Kunes
Kunes’ numbers this season are impressive; she’s currently leading the team in digs with 4.88 digs per set and 381 overall digs this season. The Roadrunners also rank fifth in the NCAA with a digs per set average of 18.27.
Kunes was a four-year starter as the outside hitter at Big Foot High School and led her team to three straight conference titles. During her senior season, Kunes recorded 313 kills and 357 digs and was also named the conference’s Most Valuable Player. Kunes also earned a second-team Division II All-State honors and a first-team all-state tournament honors and was also a member of Big Foot High School’s honor roll during her last two years.
Kunes played libero for four years with her Junior Volleyball Directors Association (JVDA) club volleyball team Club Fusion. She led Club Fusion to a JVDA championship as well. Kunes looked for a new challenge after high school and found it hundreds of miles away from her home in Wisconsin.
“I wanted to go very far away from home and I wanted something new,” said Kunes. “I loved the atmosphere, the coaches and the players here. Once I stepped onto this court in the Convocation Center, I knew this was the place for me.”
She would not have to wait long to face new challenges. Earlier this season, Kunes suffered a torn hip flexor and a sprained wrist that required her to arrive an hour early to every match to see the volleyball team’s trainer. They wrapped her whole right side of her hip and her injured right wrist in order to prepare Kunes for the match.
“I didn’t know how to handle this injury because I have never had this happen to me before,” Kunes said. “The girls, the coaches and the trainers really helped me through it.”
Kunes is now back to full strength for her team and has high expectations for herself and her teammates.
“I feel like if we continue to practice really hard we can win the conference tournament. That’s what we really want in the end,” Kunes said.
Off the court, Kunes is an undeclared student but looking at a future in the college of business. She is still adjusting to the warm southern climate in San Antonio.
“It’s a lot different. I’m not used to the humidity. I miss the seasons but l love the heat,” Kunes said.
UTSA’s physically and mentally tough libero has a soft spot. She is a huge animal lover. When she’s not studying or practing with the team, she goes to a local pet stores and loves holding puppies.
“We’re not allowed to own pets so I just buy fish, I have six,” said Kunes.
The Roadrunners are currently fourth in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) behind Idaho, New Mexico State and the league leader Utah State. Neugebauer-Groff is optimistic about this season and very happy that Kunes will be a part of the Roadrunners future.
“I couldn’t ask for a better player to get our first ball,” Neugebauer-Groff said.