Volleyball plans to “Funk” it up this season


Even though she received a large trophy, first-year Emma Funk’s favorite part of winning the 2016–17 Gatorade’s Mississippi Volleyball Player of the Year award was the $1,000 donation she made to Mississippi Gulf Sports Buddy Sports, a charity focused on providing a sports option for kids with disabilities.

Funk graduated from Our Lady Academy, a Catholic all-girls school for grades seven through 12 in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, as the school’s record holder for the most kills. Despite its small enrollment of about 200, Our Lady Academy has won six straight Class 1 Mississippi state championships. Class 1 houses divisions 1A through 3A, which contain the states smallest schools. Funk cherishes her time spent at the Catholic school and credits it with building her character.

“It was definitely one of the best experiences [I’ve had] because I got a really good sense of community and how to work with one another,” Funk said. “You kinda had to get over any drama that you had with someone because you are going to see them every single day. It really helped move past any kind of petty drama and just mature quicker.”

Even though she loved soccer, Funk decided to try out for the volleyball team in the seventh grade because of its popularity at school. Before she knew it, she had fallen in love with volleyball. She realized that she might have a future with the sport, following her first-year, when she was the only first-year on the varsity team.

“My high school coach really wanted me to try out for a club in Louisiana. I was like, ‘There is no way that I’m gonna make it. I don’t even want to go. I’m gonna hate it,’ ” Funk said. “Then I went and tried out, and I thought that I did terrible. But immediately, they wanted me to be on their team. That was the moment where I realized that I’m not just tall.”

Funk’s high school team faced a lack of leadership coming into her sophomore year.

“I was one of the only two returning starters and the other got hurt, so I was the only one who could play,” Funk said. “For three years, I had to learn how to play as many positions as I could.”

Funk’s coach decided to utilize Funk’s experience in as many plays as he could.

“I got set almost every single ball that we could. Because I played middle [blocker], which is the hardest position to defend, it was ideal to run everything out of the middle,” Funk said.

Since the offense essentially ran through her, Funk amassed impressive stat lines. She finished her junior year with 748 kills, 89 blocks and 34 serving aces. Her remarkable season didn’t end there. She received many accolades including American Volleyball Coaches Association Phenom, Prepvolleyball All-American and Gatorade’s Mississippi Volleyball Player of the Year.

Surprisingly, Funk had not received much attention from colleges despite being named the top volleyball player in the entire state of Mississippi. Going into the club season of her junior year, Funk remained uncommitted. She wanted to find a school with a solid volleyball program and a good academic reputation located near a big city.

With the help of club teammate and first year Tyler Sanderson, Funk began communicating with Julie Jenkins, Trinity’s head volleyball coach.

“We reached out to Emma and she sent us some video, and we were really impressed with what she had on video,” Jenkins said. “We corresponded for a while through email. Then last year in the fall, I flew to Mississippi to see her play a high school game. After seeing her play, I thought she would be a good fit here at Trinity.”

Funk impressed Jenkins with her athleticism and attitude.

“She has great jumping ability, and really she is not all that tall for her position. She is 5’ 10”,” Jenkins said. “Typically, you are a little taller in the middle. What sets her apart is, for sure, her jumping ability. She is touching almost 10 feet, well 9’ 9”. That is pretty exceptional for 5’ 10”. She is a really great athlete, and she is equally a strong student if not stronger.”

On Funk’s visit to campus, she knew that she had found her dream school.

“Whenever I came to visit Trinity, I really enjoyed the atmosphere that was on campus,” Funk said. “It wasn’t a competitive atmosphere where everyone was trying to be better than everyone else. They tried to collectively help each other get better. I just felt at home on campus.”

Funk also found her dream coach in Jenkins.

“I wanted a coach that I didn’t have to worry about leaving and someone who I could tell really cared about the program,” Funk said. “When I met coach Jenkins, it was perfect. She was the perfect balance of intensity and not screaming at you. She has just so much knowledge, and she is so excited about the game that it makes you excited about the game.”

In just a few practices, Funk has impressed her teammates who feel she will be valuable to the team.

“I think she is very versatile,” said Sami Lin, sophomore defensive specialist. “She is not only good at her position, but she is also good at serving. She is able to adjust to being a setter, which I think is important when your playing on a new team.”

Funk will suit up for the first time with the rest of the team when the Tigers take on Cabrini University at 3 p.m. on Aug. 31 in the William H. Bell Athletic Center as part of the Trinity National Invitational.