By RICK PETERSON
It was Rachel (Hickman) Schwensen that got married, tying the knot with Topeka native Nicolas Schwensen six months ago.
But Washburn University's volleyball team also got a present out of that union, with the Lawrence Free State product and former Division I standout joining the Ichabods for her final year of college eligibility.
After starting her college career at Kansas and earning numerous postseason honors in three seasons for Northern Colorado, Schwensen transferred to Washburn for the spring semester to join Nicolas and also joined the vaunted Ichabod volleyball team after making a call to veteran WU coach Chris Herron.
"I reached out to him,'' Schwensen said. "I called him and he was like, 'You know what, come in to campus today.' The same day I called him he told me to come to campus.''
And although the 6-foot-3 rightside hitter doesn't have much left to acomplish in college volleyball, she also wasn't prepared to walk away from the sport.
"I wasn't ready to be done,'' Schwensen said. "Coach always talks about how we need to take advantage of the opportunities that we're given now because you're going to look back one day and you're going to miss it.
"That kind of stuck with me and I don't want to look back and regret not playing again.''
Transferring to WU was just one of multiple major life changes Schwensen made in a short period of time, and she admitted that did present challenges.
But over time Schwensen has found a home at Washburn.
"It's been rather difficult, just because last semester there were so many things going on,'' she said. "I had to figure out a new school, getting married mid-semester, moving to a new state. There was lots of new stuff.
"But we're good now and I think having the summer to kind of relax and take everything in was helpful, so now we're ready to go.''
In three seasons at Northern Colorado Schwensen helped the Bears to two Big Sky regular-season and tournament championship titles and was named the 2020 Big Sky Newcomer of the Year and earned All-Big Sky first-team honors in '21 and '22.
Schwensen has seemingly picked up this fall where she left off at Northern Colorado, helping the No. 15-ranked Ichabods get off to a 6-1 start and earning the Most Valuable Player award in last weekend's Washburn Invitational after helping WU post a perfect 4-0 record.
"There's always connections that need to be made so that you trust your teammates on the court, and I think having that spring semester to work with them and get to know them, that's been really helpful this fall, just being able to have that connection already and not having to make new ones,'' said Schwensen, who has already earned her bachelor's degree in business economics and is working on her master's degree in business administration.
Schwensen has registered 58 kills while hitting at a .263 clip and has 17 total blocks and 18 digs entering this weekend's MIAA openers.
Washburn will host perennial conference power Nebraska-Kearney at 6 p.m. Friday in Lee Arena and will host Fort Hays State at 2 p.m. on Saturday.
"This is for sure my last year, so I just want to help the team any way I can,'' she said.