Senior Erica Fullenkamp has changed roles many times, now becomes leader

Senior setter Erica Fullenkamp has always been witty and a jokester to the people closest to her.

Lifelong friend and junior Abby Borges remembered a time in their junior year of high school when Fullenkamp attempted to get into every high school yearbook photo in one day.

Fullenkamp told Borges once that failing that mission was one of her biggest regrets of her junior year.

Now Fullenkamp, as one of the two upperclassmen on a sophomore-heavy team, must learn how to flip the switch from jokester to leader for the good of the team.

“Freshman and sophomore year I was the one who made everyone happy or would tell them a joke when they didn’t have a great practice,” Fullenkamp said.

Finding the balance between being a supportive friend and teammate, while still being a leader on and off the floor will be the focus for her this year.

“I’m still going to be the one cracking a joke to get my teammates happy, but I also have to know when it’s time to be serious,” Fullenkamp said. “It comes with age and maturity.”

That leadership is exactly what head coach Danijela Tomic wants out of her setter.

“We need our setter to be one of our leaders,” Tomic said. “Erica always had the leadership ability; I think for her it was just because of the numbers of seniors we had and she was the only freshman on the team when she came to college.”

Although she was the only freshman, she started all 31 matches and played in all 112 sets. That changed when coach Tomic came to BG in 2012 and moved Fullenkamp to more of a supporting role as she played in 13 matches.

“Not playing never affected Erica’s work ethic,” Tomic said. “I’ve never seen a bad attitude from her … that was never the case.”

Junior teammate Kelsey Bates also did not play much that year and said Fullenkamp always encouraged the players that were playing.

“She was very helpful to me as well because we talked it out a lot,” Bates said. “She knew her time would come if she worked hard.”

The Falcons went on to win the Mid-American Conference Championship that year with Fullenkamp taking the backseat.

“My feelings didn’t matter, what mattered was how the team was doing,” Fullenkamp said. “The team was very successful and that’s what it is all about.”

Fullenkamp was put back into the lineup her junior year as she embraced the upperclassman leadership role.

“There is always the thought process of being an upperclassmen that you have to be a leader,” Fullenkamp said. “I knew I had to be a leader. I had teammates who always supported me in that role which made it easier for me.”

Fullenkamp had been in this leadership role in high school and on her club teams, but college leadership was a new beast. She is now the leader of one of the youngest Falcon teams at the University.

“A lot more responsibility comes with leadership in college and having to hold people more accountable,” Fullenkamp said. “In college you are here for a higher purpose and that calls for a lot higher responsibility for a captain and leader. It’s kind of learn as you go.”

Being the leader of this team is not enough for Fullenkamp, though. She puts pressure on herself to be the best she can be in all aspects. That idea comes from her parents who told her to be the best person she can be whether that is in volleyball or not.

“It’s very rewarding to be a leader and be able to have teammates look up to you in that position,” Fullenkamp said. “You have to know that every practice you have to bring your A-game mentally and physically.”

Knowing this is her last year as a Falcon is a surreal feeling. but she will enjoy every second of it, she said.

“I just want to cherish every day,” Fullenkamp said. “These were by far the fastest four years of my life.”

Fullenkamp has changed her role every year she has been a Falcon and will need to do so once more as they begin their run into the 2014 season.

“I think that’s why I enjoy being captain so much,” she said. “I know that’s what our team needs and I know I’m helping to make the team that much better.”