Nikki Box exited club volleyball in grand fashion Wednesday at the AAU Junior Volleyball National Championships in Orlando, Fla. She stood on the podium with fellow 18 Club All-Americans after her final match for the Munciana Raptors.
The Yorktown graduate nearly stopped playing club volleyball last year. She said her passion for the sport waned, following the death of her father in May of 2011, but she credited Raptors coach Stacie Baldwin-Pagnard and Munciana co-director Mike Lingenfelter for providing her emotional support and ultimately convincing her to play that season.
Box overcame the heartache for a productive 2012 club campaign, followed with an All-State senior year for the Tigers last fall and then put together an impressive final club season worthy of All-American accolades.
“I came in really strong from Yorktown volleyball, and I’m such a stronger player now, just stronger leadership, stronger being emotional on the court,” said Box, who led the Raptors to a fifth-place finish at nationals. “It’s literally changed me as a player just this past season.”
Baldwin-Pagnard opened the season with Box as her libero, but she soon switched her to outside hitter where she excelled both as a passer and hitter.
“We moved her back to outside just because she can contact the ball so many times and impact so many more plays,” said Baldwin-Pagnard, a fellow Yorktown graduate.
Next up for Box is a reunion with Steve Shondell at Ball State. Box played for Shondell as a freshman at Burris. He then resigned to take over the Ball State program and Box proceeded to transfer to Yorktown where she contributed to a 2011 Class 3A state championship and a 2012 3A state runner-up finish.
Box orally committed to Ball State back in January, but she wavered on that decision after interest picked up. She said coaches from Ohio State and a few other notable programs contacted her after she orally committed to play for Shondell.
“I’m a very indecisive person and when Ball State offered me, I was like, this is awesome,” Box said, “… then I was like, man, all of these other opportunities are opening up.”
Box weighed her options, but she ultimately decided to stick with Ball State where a spot in the rotation as a defensive specialist awaits. That spot opened up after Taylor Richardson decided to leave the program in the winter, following her freshman campaign.
Shondell sold Box on the prospect of playing a significant role immediately, as opposed to potentially being buried on the depth chart at a Big Ten program.
“I’m super excited knowing I’m going to go in, and I’m going to have a spot, and that I can go and make a huge difference, make an impact with not only my play, but my leadership and the role of being the hometown kid,” Box said.
There is still one hurdle for Box to clear before she plays for the Cardinals. She is taking an online psychology course this summer to meet admissions requirements.
Box slipped academically her sophomore year at Yorktown. She missed roughly a month of school after her father died. She returned to school in May in time for final exams, but she showed up only physically, not mentally.
“I just went back with a horrible attitude. It was typical refusing to do anything, not putting my effort into something,” Box said. “I did it to myself, and now I just have to dig myself out of a hole, and I’m more than willing to do so.”
Shondell is bringing in four newcomers on scholarship in Box, fellow incoming freshman outside hitter Sabrina Mangapora and outside hitter transfers Mackenzie Kitchel and Amanda Raker.
The 6-foot-1 Mangapora played for Canfield (Ohio) High School and garnered Division II First-Team All-State accolades. She received scholarship offers from both volleyball and basketball programs.
Kitchel is the daughter of former Indiana basketball star Ted Kitchel. She is transferring to Ball State from Cincinnati where she redshirted last season as a freshman.
Raker played basketball the past two seasons at Butler, but she elected to transfer to Ball State to play volleyball for Shondell. Raker previously played volleyball at Perry Meridian High School, and she was a 2010 Class 4A First-Team All-State selection.