Over half of the Albion College student body participates in one of 23 varsity sports teams on campus. The college places an emphasis on competing at a high level in the NCAA Division III while also excelling each day in the classroom.
The vast number of student-athletes on campus have a multitude of backgrounds, including many unique players that often go unnoticed. Due to COVID-19 last school year, athletes had to move all fall sports to the spring for competitions. This year with COVID-19 restrictions being let up, athletes are able to have more of a ‘normal’ fall season.
In light of that and in order to truly appreciate all of the student-athletes who make up Albion athletics, The Pleiad’s “Beyond the Spotlight” series features a different athlete and the impact they have had on campus.
Featured in this week’s “Beyond the Spotlight” is Mariah Brenz, women’s volleyball setter and Grand Blanc sophomore. Brenz is a biology and biochemistry double major who assists chemistry professor Craig Streu with his lab research on photoswitch therapy.
“I didn’t really know what I wanted in a school but I started with just pursuing options for volleyball,” said Brenz. “I am very academically focused so I was looking at pre-med programs too, and Albion has a very strong pre-med program.”
Brenz came to Albion to pursue her career path as either a pediatrician or a dermatologist. With her desire to play volleyball and the Lisa and James Wilson Institute for Medicine at Albion, Brenz contacted the volleyball coach and “fell in love”.
Brenz makes sure to put her best effort while being on the court, with her competitive spirit.
“I am a very competitive person, so I think I add a super good competitive nature to the team,” said Brenz. “Me and Chloe Webber, her and I, we feed off each other’s energy really really well. So I think that energy pushes others to compete and always work really really super hard and always give 100%.”
Brenz came into Albion with the mindset to push through challenges, such as injuries or COVID-19, because of her love of the sport.
“I typically play through any injury that I have, which is kind of bad, but I have always been ‘just push through it and if it’s really bad then we will assess it from there’,” said Brenz.
As a first-year during the 2020-2021 school year, Brenz was met with COVID-19 restrictions. Some of which included having practices with only part of the team and their competition season postponed to the spring.
“Last year was definitely tough getting to know everybody because we just had so many rules and things we couldn’t do, but this year we have really been able to bond and hang out and get to know each other,” said Brenz. “I think that’s really helping our team culture and we are just becoming stronger because of it. I think that’s really showing on and off the court.”
Although COVID-19 vaccinated, Brenz still tested positive for COVID-19 and had to sit out of practice for ten days due to COVID-19 protocols.
“That was kinda tough because I am vaccinated and everything, so I was just not expecting to have to actually miss ten days,” said Brenz. “But overcoming that, it’s been great to see the team keep pushing and keep building and doing great things.”
Although it wasn’t the freshman year Brenz imagined when she signed to play for Albion, there were still some advantages to having her season postponed.
“That was definitely just devastating coming in, getting so excited and then realizing your season gets pushed back, but I think it was also a blessing since we were able to really work together and get to know each other and build team chemistry before we had games,” said Brenz.
With COVID-19 restrictions being lifted, Brenz is able to have somewhat of the season she expected when she came to Albion. This year, the volleyball team is expected to participate in the NCAA tournament.
“I’m just stoked to finally have what I had envisioned in my collegiate career I guess, so I can’t wait to get to MIAA play and tournament play and just see how far we can go,” said Brenz. “I know we have a lot of potential. We are a super strong team. I think that we can really take it far.”
The volleyball team will be competing against Calvin University on Nov. 5 at 4:30 p.m.
Correction: The original publication of this article credited Abby Skerlow for the photo credit. The correct photo credit belongs to Erin Lathrop. Additionally, the original text contained outdated information for the next women’s volleyball game. This has since been corrected to the most current information. The original text also contained a misspelling of Brenz’s name. This has since been corrected. We apologize for any confusion.