When Bill Rumely thinks about Sarah Rumely, his daughter, who is now an adult and an assistant volleyball coach at Louisiana State University, he still likes to refer to her as a skinny kid from New Palestine, who pushed herself to the limit and became a top-notch athlete.
His little girl grew into a 5-foot-11, NCAA Division I volleyball player for the University of Kentucky, where she had a stellar four-year career from 2006-09. She not only played at the highest collegiate level possible, but was a star on the team and in the Southeastern Conference.
School officials will recognize Rumely, 29, at the end of the month as one of the top athletes to ever play in the UK volleyball program when she will be inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame.
The ceremony will be surreal for Rumely who will be surrounded by family and friends to take in the poignant moment.
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“I am completely blown away by it,” Rumely said. “I still can’t believe it. It doesn’t seem real.”
Rumely was in tears after finding out she was an inductee and is honored to be able to represent the university and have her name go into the record books as a Division I athlete.
She grew up playing softball in the New Palestine youth league and didn’t even start playing volleyball at the club level until she was 16. To be able to move on and play in high school and be recruited at the Division I level was pretty remarkable, she said.
“I’m just so thankful my coaches at Kentucky took a chance on me,” Rumely said. “They recruited me based on my athleticism and potential and then they trained me.”
Her father’s take on Rumely’s success goes back to high school when she simply made up her mind as a teen she wanted to play Division I volleyball despite being much smaller than her eventual 5-11 frame.
“When she set her mind on a goal, she knew she had to put in the extra work to achieve that goal,” he said.
Rumely is set to be inducted during Hall of Fame Weekend, Sept. 22 and 23, in conjunction with Kentucky’s home football game against the Florida Gators.
The Scecina Memorial High School graduate led the Wildcats in many categories. She’s the only player in program history to be named the Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year in 2006 and Conference Player of the Year in 2008.
She was a two-time AVCA All-American, a four-time All-SEC Academic All-American third team and led her team to the NCAA Tournament four times, including the Sweet 16 in 2009.
Rumely finished her career owning several UK records in career assists (5,703) and aces (165) as well as (5,703) career assists which also ranks fifth all-time in SEC history.
She capped her college career ranked in the top 10 in sets played (third), block assists (ninth), digs and attack percentage (10th). Rumely is the only player to record a triple-double in a match in program history (10 kills, 56 assists, 18 digs vs. Ole Miss).
She led the team to a No. 7 national ranking in ‘09 and played professionally overseas.
Rumely came to the program when they had a second-year head coach who was intent on turning the program around. Rumely was a big part of the resurgence.
The Wildcats struggled before Rumely became part of the team, but by her senior year in 2009, the squad finished 17-3 in conference play and 29-5 overall and reached the No. 7 ranking in the country.
Ranked as one of the top 100 recruits in the class of 2006 by PrepVolleyball.com, Rumely chose Kentucky over Butler, Cincinnati and Ohio.
She became the first athlete in Scecina history to earn a Division I volleyball scholarship, something she still looks back on in disbelief.
In her four-year college career, she was fortunate to play almost every point of every game and was able to remain injury free as the starting setter for every set in every match.
Rumely practiced with the same intensity.
During her senior banquet her coach said he had never coached anyone as competitive as Rumely. He loved how she always wanted to be first in line, first in every drill and first in everything she did, causing all her teammates to laugh and nod in agreement.
Her father was her youth coach for six years and as much as he’d would like to take some credit for her intensity and success, he can’t.
“Sarah is self-driven,” he said. “In her senior year of college, she said to me, ‘you and mom need to get passports because I want to play professionally in Europe next year.'”
And, she did.
Rumely hired an agent, moved to France and played for a year giving her parents the thrill to watch her grow and mature into a professional volleyball player.
She has been in the college coaching ranks since returning from overseas and said she feels blessed to make it her profession. She credits playing softball in New Palestine from the age of 5 for helping develop her competitive drive.