DePouw ends college career on her terms
by Andrew Pekarek | Jan. 22, 2017
GREEN BAY – Sara DePouw is used to acing tests.
The Oconto native made the adjustment to living across the country in Rhode Island for college.
The 6-foot outside hitter met the challenge of playing NCAA Division I volleyball by making an instant impact when she arrived on campus at Bryant University.
The former high school valedictorian did so while prospering with her studies to earn academic honors as an accounting major.
But DePouw truly had to test her mettle when she sustained an anterior cruciate ligament tear in her left knee — twice.
"I was pretty shook up," she said about tearing her left ACL for the second time in less than a year.
Not surprisingly, DePouw faced a difficult recovery to return to the court for her senior season and the opportunity to end her volleyball career on her terms.
"It made me mentally stronger and makes me believe that I am capable of overcoming any other obstacles that come up in life," she said.
DePouw finished second on her team with 250 kills and ranked ninth in the Northeastern Conference for kills per set (2.58) during the 2016 season.
It came after she missed the entire 2015 campaign after tearing her left ACL for the first time in a practice at the end of her sophomore season in 2014.
"We were actually doing one of my favorite drills, so that kind of put a damper on that," DePouw said.
The former two-time Packerland Conference player of the year had surgery while at college and was on pace to return to the court in time for preseason practices as a junior before she tore her left ACL again during a summer training session.
Dr. Patrick McKenzie, the longtime team physician for the Green Bay Packers, performed her second ACL surgery. Although she returned to Rhode Island for classes shortly after, DePouw maintained a rehab plan from Bellin Health with her trainer at Bryant to get back for her senior year.
Oconto native Sara DePouw totaled 750 kills in three seasons at Bryant University, which is located in Smithfield, Rhode Island. DePouw missed her junior season while recovering from two ACL tears in her left knee.
"Working with their protocol made me feel incredibly confident in my knee and its ability going back my senior season," DePouw said. "I think all the hard work and preparation they made me go through helped me a lot with my confidence."
Although she has eligibility remaining due to missing her junior season, DePouw is deciding to forgo it to narrow her focus on her career goals.
A multi-time academic all-Northeastern Conference honoree, DePouw received her bachelor's degree last year with a 3.88 GPA and is pursuing her master's in a professional accountancy program at Bryant as she prepares to take the Certified Public Accountant exams later this year.
"Volleyball has impacted my life in so many ways," said DePouw, who led Oconto to a WIAA Division 3 state runner-up finish in 2012.
"The sport has helped me get to Bryant, which is easily one of the best decisions of my life so far."
DePouw tallied 750 kills, 289 digs, 191 blocks and 57 aces over 318 sets played in three college seasons to go along with a number of life-shaping experiences with her team.
Whether it was whitewater rafting in Oregon or walking down Times Square in New York, DePouw soaked it all in while at the same time growing a greater appreciation for her small-town roots in Oconto.
"That's what I think college sports is all about, seeing other places and getting to meet so many new people," DePouw said. "It's all about expanding and seeing everything. I loved it, every second of it."
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