It is not every day that you get to meet an AAU Sullivan Award Finalist, second team All-American, and All-Big Ten selection athlete at school. Aquinas Catholic was blessed to welcome Annika Albrecht, two-time Husker Volleyball National Champion, to speak about her faith journey from being homeschooled in Illinois to the bright lights at the Bob Devaney Sports Center in Lincoln.
“Whenever I think of sports, I think of joy,” Annika said.
Within sports, you are learning discipline and hard work. Her parents taught her to glorify the Lord with what He has blessed you with. She explains how being good at sports is good, but there are times when sports can lead to sin. Most tournaments fall on weekends, but observing Mass was most important. Many times she had to leave a tournament early or get up really early to go to Mass. The Catholic Faith was very important to the Albrecht family. Daily Mass at the local nursing home, daily family prayer, and youth group were a central part of Annika’s schedule growing up.
Transitioning from being at home to a college campus is sometimes difficult. So it was with great caution that Annika’s parents agreed to let her visit the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, when Coach John Cook was recruiting her to play volleyball for the Huskers.
Fr. Holdren, chaplain at Aquinas Catholic, met Anni when she was touring the Neumann Center with Coach Cook. Fr. Holdren asked Annika’s brother if she was a good volleyball player. His response, “She’s like the Lebron James of volleyball”.
While talking to Coach Cook, he asked Annika what her life goals were.
“I want to grow in my faith and I want to win a National Championship,” said Annika.
The opportunities at the Neumann Center combined with Husker Volleyball Tradition; she agreed she could accomplish both those goals at UNL.
Within sports there is a temptation to fall into the wrong kind of crowd, grow in selfishness, and become proud. She found an accountability buddy very important to keep her on track.
She said to herself, “I’m practicing every day to get better at volleyball. What am I doing to become closer to God?”
Staying close to the sacraments was the easiest way to balance daily volleyball practice for Annika.
Fr. Holdren was able to witness Annika thrive in her faith, see her at daily Mass at the Neumann Center, and participate in Focus Missionary activities.
“With the Focus Missionaries, I was able to learn new ways to live out my faith,” Annika explained.
Annika will graduate this May in Family and Consumer Science. She will be leaving as one in three Huskers in history, to play every single set in her four-year career along with other records.
Aquinas was so blessed to learn how Annika handled the transition into college and the success she found with the Huskers.
“Who got me through all of it” Albrecht said. Not what, but who.