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updated: 10/31/2013 12:36 PM

Forward, fast, for Lake Zurich's Walding

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  • Lake Zurich's Kristen Walding, right, celebrates with teammate Kiley McPeek after winning a point in a matchup against Carmel.

       Lake Zurich's Kristen Walding, right, celebrates with teammate Kiley McPeek after winning a point in a matchup against Carmel.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

 
By Bill Pemstein
Daily Herald Correspondent

Is this an example of life being too easy? How can a high school student send off an email to a big-time school back East and they respond "Yes" just by looking at her video?

And then they offer her a scholarship to come to Boston on their dime?

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Let's spit out the truth here. She is Kristen Walding. Yes, the 6-foot-1 Lake Zurich setter on the volleyball squad. The school in question is Northeastern University in the heart of Boston.

It's the final season of high school volleyball for Walding. And yet another year where she has crossed over the 1,000 mark in assists. Walding is the captain of the Daily Herald Lake County all-area team after leading the Bears to the North Suburban Conference championship and a 31-4 regular-season record.

"Along with great talent and physical attributes, she has an incredible volleyball IQ," said Lake Zurich coach Matt Aiello. "I have put a lot on Kristen's shoulders during her career and she has thrived with that responsibility. Kristen has earned the respect of her teammates by always putting them first. She is genuine in everything that she does."

You might think the top setter around might tell her teammates what to do on the court. That doesn't seem to true at Lake Zurich.

"She listens really well," said Lake Zurich hitter Kiley McPeek. "She's always listening to what the hitters want. She's asking how she can improve and she doesn't complain about it."

Walding closed out the regular season with 1,094 assists. In addition, she had 111 kills, 81 blocks, 82 digs and 35 aces. For her career, she had 3,094 assists heading into this week's state tournament.

And here is another star volleyball player who didn't start playing this sport until middle school. After all, there was plenty of soccer and softball to keep her busy.

"I played soccer for a long time," Walding said. "And also softball. Both sports have helped me with the intangibles like how to work with teammates."

And when did volleyball find her?

"I really started in sixth grade," she said. "My friends got me into it. I started playing club volleyball in eighth grade. That's when I started to love the game. I developed a personal passion for it."

It didn't take Aiello long to figure out this girl was destined to run his team's offense.

"Kristen has spent her junior and senior seasons setting and blocking from the middle hitter position," Aiello said. "This demands so much physically from her. She has been given the task of running our entire offense since her sophomore year."

McPeek, who also will head East for more volleyball at Cornell University, knows she works with a gifted setter.

"She's a really good setter," McPeek said. "She's one of the best. She's just very talented."

Once Walding discovered setting, there was no turning back.

"Setting is really cool," Walding said. "You get a lot of control. It's fun. All of our hitters are capable of putting the ball down."

Aiello is well aware a special player has helped his team the past three years.

"She has worked so hard since her freshman year," Aiello said. "She has shown a great desire to get better and learn the game. She leads her team with a quiet demeanor and confidence. She has an intensity level about her that shows she is never willing to settle. She wants to be the best and has proved to be. I consider myself very fortunate to have been able to coach Kristen these last four years. She is a great volleyball player, teammate, leader, and person."

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