Kendra Witte was blessed with all the physical tools to be an outstanding volleyball player.
At six-feet, Witte can jump with the best of them, hit for power and precision, dig up just about any ball hit her way and her serve is just downright filthy.
Witte was a three-time all-conference player at Mediapolis High School, one of the premier volleyball programs in the state.
It was the mental aspect of the game that Witte had to master since coming to the University of Dubuque just over a year ago.
Witte has conquered that challenge this season. With her confidence back, Witte has worked her way into the starting lineup as an outside hitter for the Spartans, who play Iowa Wesleyan University at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Ruble Arena in Mount Pleasant.
Witte has put all the pieces of her game together, and it is showing on the court.
"I definitely put a lot of hard work into my volleyball this summer with the weight room. I am really focused this year on playing the best I can. I am really focused on the mental side of things," Witte said. "It has really helped me with my confidence. I feel like I have done a lot better with my confidence so far. Coach (April Elsbernd) saw that, too. When I have confidence in myself, she has confidence in me, too. I just had to get mentally tough and play with a higher level of confidence."
"I know at the beginning of the season Kendra was really confident and she was really strong in practice. She was working very hard to earn a starting spot," Elsbernd said. "We had a senior get injured with little notice and Kendra became our starter. She really crushed it against Coe. That's not an easy role to step into every night, so for her to step in and the team not to miss a beat is significant. I knew she could do it. That match gave her a lot of confidence. I am very happy with her effort. She has a team-first mentality. That's what I'm most proud of her. It's great to have her on the court for us."
Witte is putting up some impressive numbers for the Spartans. She has played in 14 of the team's first 18 matches and is averaging 2.16 kills per set, third-best on the team. She also is serving at a 91.7 percent clip.
Witte is willing to do whatever it takes for the team to be successful.
"I try to be there for my teammates," Witte said. "I'm still learning the ropes of the college game, trying to get experience. Everyone encourages me to do my best."
Witte, who got interested in the sport while watching her older sisters, Nicole and Joelle, averaged 2.34 kills and 1.92 digs per game as a senior at Mediapolis while serving up 66 aces. She also played club volleyball, which helped her make a quicker adjustment to the college game.
"That helped me tremendously. It helped me physically and mentally to prepare for the next level," Witte said. "Once I got here, the coaches and all the girls made it easier for me, so it really wasn't that big of an adjustment. I love it here. It wasn't that big of a transition for me."
While her parents, John and Stephanie Witte, often make the three-hour drive to Dubuque to watch their daughter play, they won't have to go far to watch her today. Kendra Witte is looking forward to her "homecoming" of sorts, getting back on the court and helping the Spartans improve on their 11-7 record.
"It will be nice to be close to home to play. Hopefully a lot of people can come and watch me play," said Witte, an accounting major. "We have some big goals set for the season. We want to win the conference. To do that we are going to have to pull together and play as a team, trust each other and come out and do what we do."