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Wilsonville senior connected with the Yellowjackets through a club teammate

PMG PHOTO: DEREK WILEY - Wilsonville senior Kennedy Juranek signed to play volleyball at Montana State University Billings.

Kennedy Juranek planned to wait a couple of weeks to commit after visiting Montana State University - Billings last spring, at least that's what she told volleyball coach Casey Williams.

But with plenty of time to think and talk to her dad on the 14-hour drive back to Wilsonville, Juranek was ready to make a decision.

"I absolutely fell in love with the school and the community and everyone around it," Juranek said. "I needed to tell her (Williams) now that I want to come. On the car ride back, I called her and said, 'I'm in.'"

Juranek signed her national letter of intent with the Division II Yellowjackets last Tuesday afternoon in a ceremony at the high school.

"It felt like this weight on me was just lifted off," Juranek said. "It's done. I know what's going to happen now. These papers make it official, and it's crazy that I know what I'm doing with my life, and just putting every effort that I have into getting better. I'm looking forward to next season."

Juranek grew up playing multiple sports before focusing on volleyball.

"I played soccer and decided it was too much running," Juranek said. "I got cut from basketball, and then I was scared of softball because the balls were coming really fast at me, which is weird now because (volley) balls are coming even faster. It's kind of crazy, but here I am. I just love the sport and I can't imagine myself doing anything else."

Juranek started playing volleyball 10-11 years ago at YVBA before moving on to North Pacific Juniors.

While she has been the libero on her club teams, Juranek moved to setter her sophomore year at Wilsonville.

"I get to set really cool hitters," Juranek said. "Even though the change was hard, it was fun, and I'm going to libero in college."

Juranek has always wanted to play in college and actually committed to Western Oregon as a sophomore.

"It was just the thrill of I'm getting attention from a college," said Juranek, whose recruiting opened back up after Western Oregon had a coaching change. "I honestly consider it a blessing. I was sad, of course, and worried that this was it and no other college is going to want me. In reality, it wasn't like that."

While Juranek also considered Chico State in Northern California as well as Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, she ultimately decided Montana is where she wanted to spend the next four years.

"I just love it," Juranek said. "I love the snow and I love the cold and I love the outdoors. It's going to give me a good volleyball experience, but also a fun outdoor experience."

Montana State plays in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference with Western Oregon.

Juranek connected with the Yellowjackets through a club teammate — Hannah Hashbarger, a 2019 graduate of West Linn, who is now a freshman at Montana State.

"We grew super close and I was able to meet the coach (Williams) through her," Juranek said. "She came and watched me play, and I guess she liked what she saw."

Juranek went on her official visit to Billings this fall to watch the Yellowjackets play in person.

"It's fun because all of the girls know me now," Juranek said. "I still look up to them because they're college athletes. It's going to be fun that I get to play with them next year. A lot of the reason why I'm going is the team. The team has a really great dynamic, and I love just talking to them and hanging out with them. They're just super cool people."

Juranek had 744 assists, 149 digs, 64 aces and 55 kills for the Wildcats this season.

"Kennedy is an amazing player who is an intense competitor as well as an excellent teammate," said Wilsonville coach Nathan Blankenship. "Now seeing her going off to play in college makes my year."

Juranek was part of the most successful Wilsonville team in the program's history. The Wildcats placed second in Class 5A this fall after a perfect 14-0 league record.

"Just getting the chance to play with my best friends is something that I'll never take for granted," Juranek said. "I'm glad that I was able to play the position that I was in and I'm happy that we got so far my last year."

Derek Wiley
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