senior Danielle Van Buren didn't begin playing volleyball until her sophomore year, but she quickly made up for lost time after joining the varsity team.
In addition to being named her team's Most Valuable Player at a Dec. 1 awards ceremony, Van Buren's success on the court recently culminated with her signing of a National Letter of Intent presented by Kutztown University, a Division II school in volleyball.
Signing the letter committed Van Buren to attending Kutztown and playing for their team, which she says she's excited to join next year.
"I honestly never thought I would be signed," the lanky, six-foot senior gushed during a recent interview. "I didn't think I would be playing in college."
"It just feels awesome to know that it's not over," she said of her volleyball career, which she has balanced with her devotion to basketball.
Beginning last year, Van Buren said, she starting receiving attention from colleges and universities all across the country, but she eventually decided she wanted to attend a school in Pennsylvania.
After narrowing her choices to Lock Haven University, East Stroudsburg University and Kutztown University, the decision about where to attend was made easier by a visit to KU, she recalled.
"I walked onto (the) Kutztown (campus) and said, 'This is where I want to be,'" she remembered. "It was just kind of a gut feeling."
The fact that the school's volleyball team made it to the semifinals this year, and the warm welcome she received from current players also convinced her that signing a letter from Kutztown would be the right move.
Her coach, Brianna Barona, was particularly delighted by her decision, since she's a Kutztown alumna herself, she added.
Van Buren was also the first player Barona has coached who ever signed a National Letter of Intent, which "made both of us really happy," Van Buren said.
"Coach Bri and I are both kind of stubborn, but I always knew that she was just trying to push me (to be my best)," she added.
Academically, Van Buren said she plans to major in biology and minor in psychology at the Berks County university.
Athletically, she says she feels well prepared for her commitment to the sport she's grown to love because of its strategical nature.
Her advice to other up-and-coming athletes is to persevere and continually set goals for themselves, a practice to which she credits her own success.
"Every year I had a goal set for myself that I wanted to beat," Van Buren said.
If the goal isn't met, she added, "You can't let yourself get too frustrated. You just have to keep giving it your all.... It's going to better you as a player in the end."