For Kylie Michael and the rest of the Eastern Illinois University volleyball team, the 2020 season has already started.
“For this upcoming season, our team is very excited,” said the St. Joseph-Ogden graduate. “We just got a new coach (Sara Thomas). Everyone is really excited. Personally, I want to get better at my attacking and having different shots, while attacking. Also, I want to get healthy again, because I am still going through some injuries.”
Since the 2019 season ended, Michael has been working out eight hours per week as she prepares for next season. But, that will change within two weeks.
By the end of February, the Panthers will be working out 20 hours per week.
The women either hit the weight room in groups or individually. After weight lifting and conditioning, she goes to treatment.
In her first two years for the NCAA Division I school, she has posted over 100 kills in each season. In the most recent season, she finished with 125 kills and 184 digs. She also had 20 service aces, 14 assists and 13 blocks (three solos).
“Volleyball always came naturally to me, from a young age,” said Michael. “Taking a year off, when I first entered EIU, allowed me to not only get healthy, but it helped me see what it took to be where I wanted to be when I was healthy. I observed my teammates work hard each day and I learned what it would take.”
Michael not only learned from them, but she also learned from her coaches at St. Joseph-Ogden, as well as some of the former Spartan players, most notably Shelby Simmons, but her own mother.
While the males in the family all decided to play college basketball, including Eastern Illinois University athletic director Tom Michael.
Her mother, however, Shana Michael, played college volleyball at Kaskaskia College for two years.
“I looked up to Shelby so much as a freshman,” said Michael. “She was a senior that gave me great advice and help calm me down during some of our bigger games. Shelby was one of my coaches during my senior season. When we advanced to the state tournament, I was nervous in the first set of the first match. She pulled me aside and told me how great a player I was and deserved to be playing for the state championship in Bloomington. That helped build my confidence for the rest of the tournament.”
After graduating from SJO in 2017 and taking the 2017 season as a medical redshirt year at EIU, Michael emerged as a force in 2018. The 6-foot-0 outside hitter finished her redshirt freshman with 132 kills and 115 digs. She also had 26 blocks, one of which was a solo, nine service aces and one assist.
However, as a team Eastern Illinois struggled, posting only three wins in 2019 and 10 in 2018.
“I believe the low points of my career have already occurred,” said Michael. “Those have been dealing with the injuries. The high point will be gaining back the confidence from the injuries and playing at a higher level.”
The St. Joseph-Ogden graduate, now a resident of Tuscola, has two brothers.
Nate Michael, a former basketball player at McKendree University and now a graduate student manager for the Kansas State University men’s basketball team, and Nick Michael, who formerly played college basketball for Lincoln Land Community College.
In addition to helping St. Joseph-Ogden place second in the state as a senior, she also played club volleyball for Illini Elite.
She was named an all-state player by the Champaign News-Gazette and had the distinction of being named an all-conference player in the Okaw Valley for four years.
She also was named an all-area player three times. She has the SJO school record for kills in a career with more than 1,000.
“Playing volleyball for the Illini Elite was one of the best decisions I have ever made,” said Michael. “They taught me that I need to work hard not only for myself, cut my teammates as well. We were one big family. They pushed you to points you did not know existed. We practiced 3 1/2 hours per day three times a week, so you needed to be ready every day for the entire time. Illini Elite prepared me to be the best Division I athlete I could be.”