Danielle Waedekin getting set for next challenge after dominating on the court and in the classroom

by | Feb 9, 2019

The College of Nursing student was the first player in the volleyball program's history to be named an Academic All-American.
College of Nursing student Danielle Waedekin was the first player in the volleyball program's history named to the NCAA Academic All-America Division II Volleyball First Team. (Photo by August Jennewein)

College of Nursing student Danielle Waedekin became the first player in the volleyball program’s history named to the NCAA Academic All-America Division II Volleyball First Team. (Photo by August Jennewein)

The women were riled up. Mad even.

The McKendree volleyball team had won the first two sets, and yes, the team was undefeated on its home turf. Win or lose, both would be advancing to the conference tournament so the University of Missouri–St. Louis women’s volleyball team could have let it go.

But Danielle Waedekin wasn’t having it.

“We’re not going to let them do this to us,” the BSN student recalled thinking. “They think they just run the show. We’re at their place. This is embarrassing. We cannot let this happen.”

She rallied the Tritons, and they won the final three sets, toppling their conference rivals.

“I would say that was probably one of my most memorable and just fun times with the team,” Waedekin said. “I will never forget that feeling of overcoming. It showed us this is what we could be if we always had that type of energy.”

That matchup was in 2017, the same year that Waedekin was named to the NCAA Academic All-America Division II Volleyball First Team.

Waedekin made an ideal candidate for such recognition, something only five other UMSL athletes – none of them volleyball players – had received before her. In the College of Nursing’s rigorous program, Waedekin flourished, maintaining a 4.0 GPA while balancing her busy practice and game schedule. She shone athletically, starting in all 60 of her UMSL matches and helped the team finish the 2017 season with its best record since 2008.

She also knew a thing or two about overcoming.

Wanting that away-from-home college experience, Waedekin originally selected Indiana State University, where she was a starter on its team. However, during her first year, she realized that the program wasn’t a good fit. The coach gave the nursing students grief for choosing time-intensive academics, and the players were as competitive with each other as the other teams.

Because of her scholarships, Waedekin stuck it out for a second year and switched her major to the less-demanding health sciences. Ultimately, the situation wasn’t tenable for her, and she decided to transfer. While scoping out potential schools, one of Waedekin’s club coaches suggested UMSL because of the coach, Ryan Young. Plus, the school was close to Waedekin’s family, she liked the campus and then there were the genuinely nice players.

Danielle Waedekin played libero and started in all 60 of her UMSL career matches while maintaining a 4.0 GPA. (Photo by Patrick Clark, athletes eye photography)

Danielle Waedekin started in all 60 of her UMSL career matches while maintaining a 4.0 GPA. (Photo by Patrick Clark/Athlete’s Eye Photography)

“It was like a family,” she said. “Practices were competitive, but they were also fun, so it was like we were going in excited to be there.”

Waedekin played libero, the defense specialist, a demanding role that meant she never rotated off the court for a break. She tried to be a leader for the team.

“I would say that my teammates could look to me for guidance and reassurance because volleyball is a game of mistakes,” she said. “You’re going to make mistakes. I’ve made a mistake or two. They’ve made a mistake or two, and it’s all about picking each other up and leading by example.”

Because of her major switch and transfer, Waedekin still had another year of study at UMSL after exhausting her four seasons of NCAA eligibility in the 2017-18 school year. She continued to help out the team this season as a student-assistant coach.

“Danielle did a great job as a student-athlete on our team in 2017 and 2018,” Young said. “Her ability to read the game made her a great libero. Off the court, her time management skills were great as, in the nursing program, it is difficult to balance your schedule while participating in athletics.”

Waedekin credits part of her success to the other nursing students on the team as well as her parents, who are her biggest support system and attended her every game. Her achievements on and off the court led to her Academic All-American honor. Waedekin was in class when her father texted her the good news.

“I had no clue I was even in the running for it,” she said. “It was a really big shock. I was really grateful and appreciative.”

Participating in the Academic All-American ceremony with College of Nursing Dean Susan Dean-Baar was a highlight of Waedekin’s UMSL experience. She has also valued developing relationships with her instructors such as Amanda Finley, who is Waedekin’s go-to resource for questions, and the admiration is mutual.

“Danielle is a compassionate, bright and hard-working student,” Finley said. “She has worked hard to learn to balance the competing priorities in her life, and she has managed to excel at both. She possesses all of the qualities necessary to be a great nurse, and I truly believe she will be great at anything she decides to take on.”

Waedekin has especially enjoyed studying mental health, obstetrics and pediatrics. She’s thinking that labor and delivery or pediatrics might be in her future after school, possibly as a travel nurse, which aligns with her love of travel and experiencing new cultures.

Growing up, Waedekin wanted to be a teacher, but in high school she realized that she enjoyed learning about the human body, health, eating healthy and staying fit. While applying for school, she slowly realized that her interest was in nursing, and with a sister and aunt in the profession, everything clicked.

“I realized that as a nurse you’re still a teacher,” Waedekin said. “As a nurse, you’re all these things in one. Most people just think, ‘Oh, you’re taking care of patients,’ but there’s way more that goes into it. You’re educating them. You’re giving medications. You’re planning. You’re like the key piece into the puzzle. You’re relating to the doctor, everyone. I really like that it’s a challenging career.”

Jessica Rogen

Jessica Rogen