Tyler Smith, Staff Writer
Senior volleyball players, Iris Brewer (#5) and Shelly Stumpff (#13), came to Wingate with the hopes of playing high level collegiate volleyball while experiencing everything that college has to offer.
However, neither one of them could have guessed that they would have a combined eight South Atlantic Conference regular season titles and be visit six countries in teir four years here at Wingate University.
Stumpff, a math education major, who is an outside hitter for the bulldogs, came to Wingate from Iowa City, Iowa. She fell in love with the enticing competitiveness of the team, as well as the vast educational opportunities offered.
Stumpff’s freshman season was good enough to earn her SAC and Region Freshman of the Year honors. In her career, she has accumulated over a 1,000 kills and currently holds the record for most aces in school history. Now in her senior season, she has been awarded with SAC Player of the Year.
While she has had a decorated career as an athlete, being a member of the Wingate volleyball program has brought her more than awards and accolades. Stumpff had the opportunity to travel overseas to play with other collegiate volleyball players from across the country in Pula, Croatia in the European Global Challenge Tournament.
“Going to Croatia with this team was my first time going out of the country,” Stumpff said. “One of my favorite parts was getting to hang out with the Montenegro team because I learned a lot about their culture and also what other people think about our cultures.”
Getting to represent America overseas playing the sport she loved was a once in a lifetime opportunity within itself. Stumpff says that the eye opening aspects came during other parts of the trip.
“The biggest thing for me was learning how ignorant we, as Americans, are compared to other cultures,” Stumpff said. “They know so much about our culture and I had never even heard of Croatia until I got there.”
Stumpff’s classmate, Iris Brewer, is also a product of the Midwest, hailing from Cincinnati, Ohio, where she was an Academic All-American. She set her sights on attending Wingate because she felt like it was a place where she could be apart of a successful volleyball team, but she could also get involved in different organizations on campus outside of volleyball.
Brewer is an environmental biology major and secretary of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee. Outside of athletics, she is a member of the Alpha Xi Delta sorority where she is the academic achievement chair, and she is also the new member orientation chair of the Black Student Union.
She also works in the Office of International Studies, a job she is more than qualified for having traveled overseas three times in her tenure as a Bulldog.
Brewer went overseas before she even sat in her first class as a freshman. The summer before she arrived at Wingate, Coach Shelton Collier recommended her for a spot on the Bring It Promotions South East Summer Tour Team with two of her future teammates. They flew to Munich, Germany to train with the team before traveling through Austria, Italy and Slovenia to and finally stopping in Pula, Croatia, where the tournament took place.
“Traveling across the world without my parents at 17 showed me that I could take care of myself and opened my eyes to the possibilities in the world,” Brewer said. “We visited Dachau when in Germany, which I had heard about in history class, but history is so much more powerful in person, especially this concentration camp.”
Brewer got the opportunity to play with some of the best collegiate volleyball players in the world, an opportunity she would not have had if she had chosen to go to another school.
Not only did Stumpff and Brewer play overseas individually, they also traveled as a team to Nicaragua the summer before their sophomore year for yet another trip that would teach them much more than how to be a better volleyball player.
According to Brewer, traveling to one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere forced the team to reflect on how fortunate they were to grow up in the United States not only because of the volleyball opportunities provided to them but also the life opportunities.
“In Nicaragua, my favorite part of the entire trip was the community service and going to the school and playing with the kids for like an hour,” Stumpff said. “The smiles on their faces I will never forget.”
Both Stumpff and Brewer came to Wingate looking for a well balanced college experience with the opportunity to play high level volleyball and get involved on campus. Four years later, four SAC regular season titles, three Elite Eight appearances, two Academic All-District honors and one SAC Player of the Year award, the seniors more than made their mark on the volleyball court.
However, it was the experiences they had overseas exploring new cultures that opened their eyes to life outside of the sport of volleyball and America consisted of.
Edited by: Kyndra Sanden