By Nick Mazzarella - STAFF WRITER
Hofstra led Elon, 15-14, in the fourth set on Friday night. After Hannah Klemm set Kelsie Wills, Wills tooled the block for her 1,655th career kill. It was a new school record.
Rewind to Wills’s first year of high school. After seeing her brother play volleyball, she wanted to pick up the sport and add it to her repertoire, which included basketball, tennis and netball. She went on to play for a number of teams: her high school Matamata College, regional teams, club teams and New Zealand’s under 17 and under 19 national teams for indoor and beach volleyball
Wills found success playing volleyball in her homeland, but for the senior outside hitter, going to college in the United States was a great opportunity.
“There are really no competitive sports after high school at home, so I was able to come here and study and play intense volleyball… best of both worlds,” said Wills.
How did American schools hear about a player from New Zealand? At an under 19 beach volleyball tournament in Portugal, a scout asked Wills if she wanted to look into playing in the United States. He put her information on a website so that colleges could contact her and watch her videos.
The exposure earned Wills looks from Hofstra and VCU among other programs. Ultimately, she chose the Pride.
“I came on a visit here, and the team was really nice,” said Wills. “New York seemed like a pretty cool place to be.”
According to Wills, volleyball in New Zealand is a lot more “chill” and “social,” but she likes the intensity and competitiveness of the American game. Although their playing styles are different, Wills said that the countries are similar, so she didn’t make much of adjusting to life in a new country.
“New Zealand’s quite like America… and I’ve traveled a lot, so it wasn’t too much of a shock to my system,” said Wills.
More than 8,800 miles separate Hempstead and Matamata, but Wills doesn’t even have to leave campus to be with family. Beau Wills, a senior on the men’s tennis team, is her older brother.
Beau came here a year before his sister to play tennis at Brevard College in North Carolina. Though, after two seasons, he wanted to play at a higher level. He visited his sister at Hofstra and liked it, so he decided to take his talents to Hempstead.
“Having my brother here is awesome,” said Wills. “I don’t get homesick at all really.”
Now in her final season, Wills stands alone as Hofstra’s all-time kills leader with 1,674, and she still has 15 regular season matches to play. She is one of six players in program history with 1,000 kills and 1,000 digs, and she entered the year as the Pride’s all-time leader with 3.97 kills per set.
The accomplishments, “kind of just come with the job,” said Wills. “I need to do my job, and it’s a nice benefit to get these things.”
When asked whether she thought that she would have this much success at Hofstra, Wills said not at all. “I was pretty tentative my freshman year.”
Her “tentative” freshman year contained CAA all-rookie selection followed by all-CAA first team selections in her sophomore and junior years. Playing under a new head coach in her senior year isn’t fazing Wills as the CAA preseason player of the year was just named CAA player of the week for the third time in five weeks.
Wills hopes to play professionally after graduation, but first, she wants to win the conference and return to the NCAA tournament. She was a member of the 2012 team that lost to Florida State in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
“We definitely want to get to the tournament,” she said. “Maybe even past game one.”
Wills wants to be remembered as not only an athlete, but also as someone who values academics, in her words, an “all-arounder.”