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Feb 01, 2023

Mckenna Slavik – National Girls and Women in Sports Day

Since finishing her senior season with the Tigers and gearing up for her final year of eligibility awarded to her due to COVID-19, Mckenna Slavik has been excited about the future of women’s sports, especially women’s volleyball. Throughout her lifetime, Slavik has noticed that volleyball has become much bigger and attracted a sizeable fan base, especially in the United States. “I am super excited to be a part of it (volleyball), especially while it is growing rapidly.”

Growing up, Slavik always looked up to her mother, who played college volleyball at the University of Wisconsin. Her mother even played at the same club as her growing up. “I really just wanted to be like my mom.”

Slavik’s sister started playing volleyball before her, but you could always catch Slavik off at an empty court during her sister’s tournaments practicing in preparation for the following year when she’d get to take the court. She even tried her hand at soccer, swimming, t-ball and tennis before sticking with volleyball full-time. “I always knew I wanted to play volleyball. I always had the most fun when I was playing at volleyball camps. I knew this was what I wanted to do.”

Without a doubt, Slavik’s mother has always been her biggest role model and inspiration growing up, but when she started playing club, Lauren Carlini caught her eye. Carlini is a professional volleyball player for the United States National Team and played at Slavik’s club. “I was like; I want to be her…she had a big impact on me. The second I saw her play, I wanted to be just like her.”

Slavik’s connection to Clemson is more than what meets the eye. Tigers’ head coach, Jackie Simpson Kirr, also played at Slavik’s hometown club and for the University of Wisconsin, where her mother played. Slavik, her mother, and Coach Simpson Kirr were all coached by the same people at the club level which helped build an instant connection when the recruiting period opened. “When I first talked to Jackie, I was on the phone for about an hour, and I never did that because I was awkward in high school. I just felt comfortable with her, and in the back of my mind, I knew I wanted to go to Clemson.”

Besides her mother and Lauren Carlini, Slavik looks up to many other female athletes. Prominent athletes like Kerri Walsh Jennings, Misty May-Treanor, Serena Williams and Simone Biles have raised the standard for women in sports. Jennings and May-Treanor are two of the most successful beach volleyball players who have won three Olympic gold medals together. Serena Williams is one of the greatest tennis players ever and is arguably the best women’s tennis player who has won 23 singles grand slam titles in her career. Simone Biles has collected seven Olympic medals and is tied for the most Olympic medals won by an American gymnast. “I feel like all female athletes look up to these women; they are just amazing athletes.”

With the development of women’s volleyball in the United States, the formation of professional leagues in the near future, and the growth of endorsements from prominent male athletes, volleyball is the next big thing. Slavik notes that eyes need to get in front of the sport. “Whenever anyone who knows nothing about volleyball goes to a game, they always say it was so fun to watch. It’s genuinely so enjoyable and exciting to watch and play.”

For the next generation of female volleyball players, Slavik hopes they are afforded more opportunities. “If you really want to get to the next level, put in the extra work and go to practice early. It will not only help you develop a strong work ethic, but it will also help you get recognition and be better at your work.”

Slavik is grateful for the opportunities not only in her hometown in Illinois gave her, but also in Clemson. She’s noted there are more resources now for female college athletes than when her mother played at Wisconsin, especially regarding mental health. Slavik hopes women’s volleyball keeps progressing and growing as the years pass.