Volleyball senior, Renee Lemke, looks back on final season

West Liberty University’s volleyball team have just completed their condensed season with a 7-4 record. This season was the last for senior setter Renee Lemke, a human biology major from Centerburg, Ohio. Lemke has been a core member of the team throughout her four years on the Hilltop and has played a key role in several important victories.

Before coming to West Liberty, Lemke was a three-time All-Conference and two-time All-District athlete at Centerburg High School in Ohio. She also picked up two MVP awards and an MOAC Scholar-Athlete award during her high school career. “I started playing volleyball in fifth grade as a way to have something fun to do with my friends,” said Lemke, a sentiment that has stayed throughout her playing career.

Lemke came to WLU as a freshman in 2017 citing the “family like atmosphere of the volleyball team, plus the smaller campus feel of West Lib,” as her main reason for making the Hilltop her home for the next four years.

The Lady Toppers have enjoyed 68 victories since Lemke joined the roster in 2017 under two different head coaches. The ladies have consistently performed well and finished near the top of the Mountain East Conference. There have been several highs and lows during Lemke’s four years but she said the recent victory against local rivals Wheeling University holds the top spot. “Beating Wheeling on senior night is by far one my favorite moments,” said Lemke. “It was a total team win.” WLU beat the nationally ranked Lady Cardinals 3-1 at the start of this month in their last home game of the season.

For any student athlete the balance between academic and athletic success is difficult to maintain, but Lemke has excelled on both fronts. Lemke is not alone in her academic success as the volleyball team consistently posts a high GPA with all 15 members of the squad achieving higher than 3.0 in the spring of 2020. “Being a student athlete takes up a lot of time, but I like having a schedule to keep me busy,” said Lemke. Striking the right work-life balance is essential for any student-athlete and managing this over the course of four years is no easy-feat, but is one that Lemke has managed with flying colors.

Lemke’s last game for the Black and Gold was an unfortunate loss against Wheeling University in the Mountain East Conference Tournament which although disappointing, was by no means a bad way to go out. “It doesn’t feel real,” she said. “I think it’ll really hit me when the team starts practicing again. It’s definitely bittersweet, and I’m going to miss it very much.”

After graduation Lemke plans to move back to her hometown to use her degree in human biology and start work as an MLS at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.