Shooting for the Stars: Freshman takes on two varsity sports

Gabby Anderson, staff writer

Like every other freshman on August 16, freshman Kirston Verhulst stepped out of her car for orientation, backpack on her back. 

But the thing that would set her apart was the bright red bag she would gain in just a few days that gave her the title not many other freshmen share: varsity athlete. Verhulst was one of the four freshmen to make varsity volleyball and three freshmen to make varsity basketball this year. 

“I was thinking I would make varsity for basketball,” Verhulst said. “I didn’t know if I would make volleyball because I hadn’t played it in a few years.”

According to Verhulst, she started to think she would be put on varsity during tryouts, but the final lists were what made it official.  

“During the tryouts I was put on the side with the older classmen.” Verhulst said. “So I was thinking, probably, I’ll make varsity.”

On Sept. 2, Verhulst played in her first varsity game against Gardner. The team traveled to Washburn Rural for its first game of the season. 

“I wasn’t really nervous because volleyball is more of a team sport,” Verhulst said. 

Playing a sport like volleyball with a team is less pressure for her to individually perform at a high level all the time, Verhulst said. According to the National Library of Medicine, adolescents who play team sports are more likely to feel supported by their peers and usually experience fewer depressive symptoms. 

According to her, the best part of playing volleyball is hitting the ball. She started at the beginning of the season only playing back row and she became a right side hitter by the end of the season.  

“You get out any feelings you have when you hit the ball,” Verhulst said. 

Verhulst said that playing sports has helped her get to know people, especially upperclassmen, that she might not have known otherwise.

The varsity volleyball team ended its season with a third place finish at state on Oct. 30. The basketball team had been running open gyms for a few weeks, and it was now time for Verhulst to join.

“It was really hard to go straight from volleyball to basketball,” Verhulst said. “My body was really tired.”

Verhulst said her break didn’t last very long between sports and that she didn’t have a lot of time off to recover. 

“I knew the same way that I would make varsity for basketball,” Verhulst said. “They put me on the side with the older kids too.”

The turnaround for basketball was quick as the team played its first game on Dec. 3 against St. Joe Central. 

“I was really scared for the first game because basketball is my main sport,” Verhulst said. 

By the end of the season, Verhulst was starting every game and was one of the most effective shooting players on the team. Her contribution to the team helped the Stags make it to the state finals, where the team ultimately won for the second year in a row.

“It was pretty crazy,” Verhulst said. “Being able to win it for the seniors and then kind of get a streak going for my next four years was pretty exciting.”

According to Verhulst, the goal is simple: win state for basketball all of her four years in high school and at least one state championship in volleyball.

“I’m really hoping that we beat Aquinas in basketball every single time from now on because my sisters only lost once each,” Verhulst said. 

Verhulst comes from a family of basketball players including two Miege alumni, Payton and Ashton Verhulst. According to her, it runs in their family and is why she got started in the sport. 

“I got thrown into it at a young age and have been playing it ever since,” Verhulst said. 

Freshman Kirston Verhulst celebrates the basketball team’s state victory. Verhulst is a multi-sport varsity athlete. (Courtesy photo)