Volleyball star leads busy life

Aaron Vehling

As long as senior Brooke Wozniak-Schmidt can remember, she’s been active in sports. As a youngster, Wozniak-Schmidt would play softball or just run around with her sister and cousin. But it wasn’t until she started watching her aunts play volleyball that she became interested in the sport.

“They were my role models,” Wozniak-Schmidt said. “I loved watching them play.”

She played organized sports in middle school and throughout high school. Not only did she play volleyball, but she also was active in basketball and track, and still is to this day.

She said she thought it was funny because everyone in high school thought she was only about basketball.

“My coach (for volleyball) thought that I was only in volleyball to stay in shape for basketball,” Wozniak-Schmidt said. “Everyone expected me to be all about basketball and thought that was my main priority, but I really enjoy playing the other sports.”

At UW-Eau Claire, Wozniak-Schmidt is active in volleyball, which she says she didn’t even know if she wanted to play.

“I wasn’t sure if I wanted to play here, but when I met (Coach) Lisa Herb she convinced me to play,” Wozniak-Schmidt said.

As Wozniak-Schmidt enters her final year at Eau Claire and with Blugold volleyball, she has a few goals to aim for.

“I would really like our volleyball team to go to the conference championship,” she said. “We’ve never had that in volleyball.

“We’d really like to go to the NCAA (playoffs),” she said. “That’s a really big goal of ours, and I can’t remember the last time the volleyball team was able to do that.”

Wozniak-Schmidt said she believes these are goals that are possible for the team.

“The teams in the past had talent, but this team has something special,” Wozniak-Schmidt said. “We just have to put it all together.”

She began the season as a returning American Volleyball Coaches Association All-Midwest Region Team member and a 2002 First Team All-WIAC selection. Last year, she finished the season third in the WIAC with a hitting percentage of .328 and was fourth in kills per game with 3.82.

Volleyball coach Lisa Herb said Wozniak-Schmidt is competitive on the court as well as off.

“Her volleyball experience has allowed her to be a very smart attacker,” Herb said. “She’s a finesse player as well as someone who is able to pound the ball.”

Herb said after watching Wozniak-Schmidt grow and develop over the years, she has seen great improvement in her playing.

“She’s learned to be able to do a variety of things offensively,” Herb said. “She used to hit a lot of high sets but now she’s able to hit a variety of different sets in different locations around the net.

“Defensively, she’s gotten a lot smarter and she’s able to pick out hitters a lot better,” she said. “Her blocking has improved quite a bit.”

Beyond sports, Wozniak-Schmidt is working on graduating, hopefully in December, otherwise in May with a math secondary education major.

Between juggling the three sports she participates in, finishing up school, working at Garfield’s and observing schools to become a teacher, somehow Wozniak-Schmidt found the time to get married. Notice the addition to her last name.

She and her husband, Bob Schmidt, a May 2003 graduate of UW-Eau Claire, were married on June 14.

Wozniak-Schmidt and her husband are aspiring teachers. Schmidt is teaching at Rice Lake, which is where Wozniak-Schmidt also would like to teach. The couple will be moving there after Wozniak-Schmidt graduates.

She said that a family is another thing she would like in her near future.

“If I wasn’t in sports, I would probably have kids now,” she said.

Although her life is jammed full of activities, she said she hopes the semester will slow down a little bit.

“It gets crazy at times, but all my coaches have been really helpful since some of the sports overlap,” she said. “They know my situation and don’t badger me to do more than I can.

“My coaches let me stay focused on one sport at a time.”

Wozniak-Schmidt’s life has been pretty crazy as she prepares for the real world, but she said she is able to handle it and make it run smoothly.

“It’s good to have variety.”