UCSD Women's Volleyball Loses Four Heavy Hitters

Every year, collegiate athletes must pack their bags and leave the sport they love. They may go on to play professionally, or coach a team, but the thrill of playing for their own school has to come to an end. This can be difficult at times, but also the thought of achieving the goals that they set out for at the beginning of their college lives can be rewarding.

Courtesy of UCSD Athletics

Four women will be graduating this upcoming year from the women’s volleyball team here at UCSD. Leslie Punelli from Laguna Niguel, Calif., Shannon Hawes from Escalon, Calif., Kearney Visser from Santa Monica, Calif., and Christine Kueneman from Watsonville, Calif. Each has left her mark on her sport and teammates, and will greatly be missed.

“”I have an advantage over their instructors,”” said fifth-year head coach Duncan McFarland. “”They have them in their classes, but I had the privilege of really knowing these girls and working with them for four years. I saw a lot of growth in these ladies; the way they motivated their teammates, the way they pushed the team harder during practice and games. The chemistry that they brought is hard to replace.

Punelli was the team captain this year, an all-conference player, and the team MVP for the 2001 season. Her accolades are extremely impressive, mounting a record of 101-23 with teammate Kueneman. Punelli led her team in service aces and digs this past year, plus ranking in the top of the team in other categories as well.

Kueneman, herself, was co-captain, and she and Punelli really became a dominant two-person combination for the Tritons for these past years.

Hawes was a red-shirt player her freshman year and will be graduating this year with her class.

Visser played opposite for the Tritons, where she excelled in all facets of the game. Her specialty, though, was digs. Her 3.07 per game was second on the team.

“”These girls have been here with me since I began my career at UCSD, so it’s easy to have an attachment to them,”” McFarland said. “”The girls showed a lot of poise, stepping into the collegiate scene and answering the challenge. I remember in 1997 when we won the NCAA Division III championship in their opening season. In 1998 we finished in second place in the championships, so these girls have shown great consistency in their play and have left their mark on the whole Division III.

“”I truly believe that Leslie will end up either teaching or coaching a volleyball team in the future,”” McFarland continued. “”She has the ability to reach kids on a level most teachers cannot. I can honestly see her going in that path.””

So as another school year culminates, we say good-bye to four athletes who can be proud to represent the Tritons spirit. They have excelled both on and off the court, which is a testament to their character and persona.

Peyton Manning, a once-quarterback for the University of Tennessee put it well when he said, “”Being student athletes represents all that is good in sports.”” These four women are evidence of that.