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Volleyball Player of the Year: SC East’s Niski reached lofty heights

St. Charles High School varsity volleyball player Meghan Niski spikes ball during game against Prairie Ridge girls volleyball tournament Prairie

St. Charles High School varsity volleyball player, Meghan Niski, spikes the ball during a game against Prairie Ridge in a girls volleyball tournament at Prairie Ridge High School.

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Updated: January 24, 2012 2:01AM

Meghan Niski suspects all the working out she did eventually paid off in her ability to play volleyball at a higher altitude than most. However, she may have had some early help.

“When I was a baby, my mom (Maureen) had this thing called ‘Johnny Jump Up,’ a baby thing, and I guess I would jump up and down in it all the time,” Niski said. “Maybe that had something to do with being able to jump high, I don’t know.”

Most likely that Evenflo product that looks a bit like a baby swing did not help Niski develop the leg muscles needed to play so high above the net, enabling her to produce 1,277 kills and 123 blocks in a four-year volleyball career at St. Charles East.

“I really don’t know, maybe it was working out, but I didn’t really notice how high I could jump until people started telling me, ‘you jump real high’ after I started playing competitively when I was younger,” Niski said.

The 5-foot-10 senior outside hitter led the Saints during the 2011 season to their second state trophy in her four-year career by making 418 kills and 48 blocks, and as a result has been chosen Courier-News Player of the Year.

While Niski displayed great leaping ability on the attack or making blocks, coach Jennie Kull said her star is anything but a one-dimensional player.

“She’s a dynamic hitter, but the thing is she’s so skilled in the back row,” Kull said. “She’s all-around phenomenal. She can do it all. That’s what sets her apart from the rest.

“She is dynamic in the front row, back court and has a great attitude. She’s the whole package.”

In the Saints’ run to third place at state, Niski made 207 digs. At the serving line, she had 29 aces. Over four years with the varsity, Niski made 967 digs and 135 aces.

“She’s very much a leader, is very organized and has committed herself to excellence,” Kull said.

Niski said Kull’s influence had a lot to do with her success, as well as Saints assistant Mike Bui.

“He’s been here for two years and he’s been my coach at Club Fusion for four years and started working with me on my style of play and on my shot,” she said.

Next year Niski will take her air-borne style to James Madison on scholarship.

Niski might never have played for Kull if not for a meeting between her mother and her coach in 2001. Maureen Niski and Kull went to high school at Champaign Central together and were at a reunion, which led to both Meghan and her older sister, Caroline, going to St. Charles East.

“My sister was going to go to St. Francis,” Niski said. “At the last minute she decided to come here after my mother had talked with coach Kull.

“I think I always knew I wanted to come here. Maybe it would have been different if she would have gone to St. Francis, and maybe I would have followed here there.”

For four years, it worked out quite nicely for the Saints and Niski as she reached new heights, both figuratively and literally.

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