DAVID CITY (AHS/SNR) - Annika Albrecht, two-time Husker volleyball national champion, recently spoke at Aquinas High School in David City.
The AAU Sullivan Award finalist, second team All-American, and All-Big Ten selection athlete shared her faith journey from being homeschooled in Illinois to the bright lights at the Bob Devaney Sports Center in Lincoln.
“Whenever I think of sports, I think of joy,” Albrecht said.
Within sports, athletes learn discipline and hard work, she explained, and said her parents taught her to glorify the Lord with the blessings he gave her. Her family attended daily Mass at a local nursing home, and participated in daily family prayer. The parish youth group was a central part of Albrecht’s schedule growing up.
When Albrecht first visited the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, she toured the St. Thomas Aquinas Newman Center with Coach John Cook. At the time, Father Benjamin Holdren, now chaplain at Aquinas, was serving as assistant pastor at the Newman Center.
He recalled that he asked Albrecht’s brother if she was good at volleyball.
“She’s like the Lebron James of volleyball,” he responded.
Cook asked Albrecht what her life goals were.
“I want to grow in my faith and I want to win a national championship,” Albrecht said she responded. With the opportunities at the Newman Center and the Husker volleyball tradition, she agreed she could accomplish both those goals at UNL.
She shared with the students the challenges of maintaining faith practices as a college athlete. As most tournaments fell on weekends, Albrecht often had to leave a tournament very early or wake very early to meet her Sunday Mass obligation. She also spoke of the temptation to fall into the wrong kind of crowd, to grow in selfishness, and to become proud. She said she found an “accountability buddy” to keep her on track.
Albrecht said she asked herself, “I’m practicing every day to get better at volleyball. What am I doing to become closer to God?” She said staying close to the sacraments was the easiest way to balance daily volleyball practice.
Father Holdren was able to witness Albrecht thrive in her faith, see her at daily Mass at the Newman Center, and participate in activities provided by campus FOCUS missionaries.
“With the FOCUS missionaries, I was able to learn new ways to live out my faith,” Albrecht explained.
She graduates in May with a degree in family and consumer science. In addition to her other honors and records, Albrecht will leave as one of only three in Husker volleyball history to play every single set of her four-year career.