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For Annie Kunes, it’s all about the defense. Kunes, a junior, plays the libero position for UTSA’s volleyball team. She is the team’s defensive specialist, tasked with racking up as many “digs” (keeping the ball from hitting their side of the court) as possible and with passing the ball to her offensive teammates.

“It’s a lot of responsibility, but I love it,” Kunes said. “My team always has my back, and I always have theirs.”

Kunes has held this position since she joined the team as a freshman three years ago, and even longer before that. During high school, she played libero for four years with her Junior Volleyball Directors Association (JVDA) club volleyball team, Club Fusion.

“I was 16 when UTSA recruited me,” Kunes said. “I was still a junior in high school when I was signed on, actually, and it’s funny because I really didn’t want to come at first. My parents had to force me to at least check the campus out. But as soon as I got here, I was just blown away. I knew this was the school for me.”

Playing in San Antonio meant a big change for Kunes come graduation, however, as attending UTSA required relocating from her childhood home in Fontana, Wis. Being so far away from home has been one of the most challenging experiences of her career so far.

“It was really hard at first,” Kunes said. “But I adapted pretty fast because everyone is so friendly around here. My family was so supportive and came to every game. They’ve supported me through everything, really, which is amazing.”

Her family, which Kunes says has always been one of the most important aspects of her life, encouraged her to play sports. The youngest of six children, Kunes said her sister Kelli’s love for volleyball is what originally inspired her to try out for the sport.

“I was nine when I started playing, and it was mostly because of my sister,” Kunes said. “She’s definitely my biggest inspiration. I look up to her in every aspect of life but especially so in volleyball.”

What does she love most about the sport? Kunes said it is the feeling she gets during matches. “I love the energy. Every play is different and you have to be ready for anything. You can get so pumped so easily, even if you’re not the one making the kill shots.”

Kunes believes part of this enthusiasm stems from the bond that forms between teammates. “It’s like having a family. We all love each other. I met my best friends on this team, and getting to play with them is unreal.”

Outside of volleyball, Kunes is a public health major. She hopes to work as a nutritionist for athletes after graduation. “I would love to stay involved with athletics,” she said.

As for her plans for the rest of the 2014 season, Kunes said one of her main goals is to help her team make it to the conference tournament.

“We’d like to make a run to the NCAA tournament. Last year we made it there, but lost in the first round. I’d love to come back from that. I think winning is a real possibility this year, especially if we keep playing the way we have been since this season started.”

As of Sunday’s game, the UTSA volleyball team has gone undefeated in Conference USA, winning all nine of the matches it has competed in since the start of the season.

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