Marie Pregenzer had an interesting athletic career at Albion College, but the journey led her to an remarkable senior season on the volleyball court where the middle blocker achieved all-Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association second team status.
Soccer was Pregenzer's main sport growing up. She started playing at age 5 and was a four-year starter at Kalamazoo Central High School where the central midfielder and sweeper earned all-conference and all-district recognition.
Volleyball was "more for fun" she said, noting she picked up the sport in middle school and played only one season on the travel circuit.
Pregenzer moved in to her Albion residence hall before fall semester classes started in 2015, but she learned there wasn't a place for her on the soccer roster.
Luckily for the volleyball program, Pregenzer was too competitive to give up easily. She proved her skills to Briton volleyball coach Kristin de St. Aubin the next day and she was inserted into the starting rotation when Albion challenged Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association rival Calvin College late in the season.
"I was sitting in the dining hall after the soccer coach told me there wasn't space for me on the team and I looked around at all the athletes with ice bags and I thought there wasn't a time since I was five when I wasn't on a team.," Pregenzer recalled of her decision to send an inquiry to de St. Aubin about an opportunity to try out for the volleyball team.
"I guess I had potential (for volleyball), but I didn't think I was that good, actually," the exercise science major and member of the college's Wilson Institute for Medicine who is in the process of applying for nursing school after graduation, added. "I started as one of six players on the junior varsity team. I remember Cesar Maza (the varsity assistant and junior varsity coach at the time) telling me I could have a really good serve if I kept working.
"The coaches say I'm very athletic, so I think it was that athleticism that made me good," she added. "My actual skill needed improvement."
Pregenzer became a mainstay in the front row for Albion as a sophomore – she collected 170 kills and 69 blocks and served up 24 aces – but her hitting took off as a senior when she achieved a .302 hitting percentage with 238 kills.
She finished her career with 232 blocks, third-most all-time at Albion, and 101 aces, fifth-most in a career at Albion.
"I can't tell you when I started playing well," Pregenzer said. "From what I remember, I didn't make a lot of errors (in hitting). I guess I started hitting the right spots and hitting harder.
"All these small little things – my approach and the transition off the net – came together," she added.
It was as a sophomore that Pregenzer started to accept her new identity in volleyball. Where she used to juggle a volleyball with her feet as a first-year student, now she claims to not have played soccer in a couple of years.
While learning how to play volleyball at a higher level, Pregenzer claims she never became frustrated because she took a refreshing approach to the sport.
"I know there were times when I was frustrated, but I think for me, it was about having fun instead of putting myself where everyone else was," she said. "One of my friends said she loved watching me play because it looked like I was having fun and that there always was a smile on my face.
"In the high stress situations, I could pull myself together thinking this is for fun," she added. " I will remember my career being fun and exciting."