Redbird volleyball’s Courtney Pence digs deep on court and in classroom
The hyphen between “student” and “athlete” can bear a lot of weight, but senior volleyball player Courtney Pence handles the responsibility with ease. Throughout her time here at Illinois State University, she’s been competitive on the court and in the classroom, successfully making time for her studies, her social life, and her sport.
Pence boasts an impressive record as the Redbird volleyball team’s libero and Illinois State’s all-time leader in digs. She’s the sixth student-athlete in the program’s history to earn All-American status from the American Volleyball Coaches Association. As a sophomore she was named Libero of the Year by the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) and followed it up her junior year as a two-time Defensive Player of the Week.
When she’s not winning awards and accolades, Pence is working just as hard in the classroom, studying to earn degrees in both insurance and small-business entrepreneurship. In the fall, an average week for Pence consists of conditioning, classes, workouts, studying, practice, travel, and games.
“I think playing a sport in college really helps you academically because you’re more efficient with your time,” Pence said.
Aside from her work ethic, Pence also credits a strong support system—her teammates—for her success at Illinois State. When Pence joined the team, she was welcomed into a space with other students who shared her values and goals academically and in volleyball; that bond doesn’t break when the players leave the court. Pence and her teammates, who she describes as her best friends, travel together, eat together, and study together.
The team culture they’ve created helps them stay motivated and hold each other accountable. Pence’s goal as captain is to continue that tradition and build that same environment for the team’s incoming freshmen. Watching her teammates teach other, she says, is one of the most rewarding parts of being on the team.
The Springfield native has always had ties to Illinois State and Bloomington-Normal. Before her college volleyball career, she played for Illini Elite Volleyball Club in Bloomington, and both of her parents and older sister are Redbird alumni. Despite committing to Illinois State her sophomore year of high school, Pence was originally reluctant to call the University home.
“I looked at every place but ISU. My family went here, so I originally wanted to do something different,” said Pence. After a visit to campus and a discussion with a college recruiter, Pence’s mind was made. “One day I randomly decided to seriously consider ISU and then I committed the following fall. I’ve really enjoyed my experience as a student-athlete.”
Don’t miss any of the Illinois State volleyball action at Redbird Arena this fall. Visit GoRedbirds.com for team news, schedules, rosters, and tickets.