Covering the Land of Lincoln

Swanson emerges as key starter for Illinois | Community

Luke Mullin

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – The last few years have been a lesson in patience for Kyla Swanson.

After a state championship and second-team Super-State selection as a senior at Wahoo High School, Swanson was off to the world of big-time college volleyball at Illinois. And for two years, Swanson had to wait her time.

She appeared in just five matches as a freshman and seven as a sophomore, but Swanson’s junior year was what she’d been waiting for. Swanson finally jumped into a starting role, playing in 27 of Illinois’ 34 matches and totaled the second-most blocks on the team.

“I was finally able to start contributing a lot last year, and it’s been an awesome journey,” Swanson said. “(I learned) that my role is just as important off the court as it on the court, so you can’t get discouraged, because your time will come.”

It might not be a coincidence that Swanson’s rise to a starting role coincided with a stellar year on the court for Illinois. The Illini made a surprise run to the Sweet 16, beating defending national champion Kentucky before falling 3-0 to Nebraska.

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For Swanson, that win over Kentucky is something she’ll remember for a long time.

“Last season was such a high note for me and it was a lot of fun to finally be able to play in front of fans again,” Swanson said. “It was a great season; I was really happy about the improvements I’d made, and to see that reflected in our season was really cool.”

Swanson closed her high school career at Wahoo with back-to-back state titles, and she has remained invested in the community. While her family moved to Basehor, Kansas, last summer, Swanson made it back to Wahoo over Memorial Day weekend.

Seeing old friends and reconnecting with her former head coach, Trish Larson, and teammates Elly and Mya Larson made it a worthwhile trip.

“We made a three-day weekend out of it, and my brother and I got to stay with our friends in Wahoo,” Swanson said. “Not only were they my teammates, they were my second family.”

She’s still a popular figure in Wahoo for the Warrior fans who remember her tenacity in both volleyball and basketball. And after achieving plenty in athletics, Swanson appears poised for a successful postgraduate career.

Swanson just added a minor in business to her communications major, and has been working at State Farm over the summer while training. Before she moves on to her long-term career goals, there’s plenty for Swanson to do in her senior year.

The Illini return several other key contributors from last year’s team, and with Swanson leading the way at the net once again, they’ll be a team to watch in the ultra-competitive Big 10.

“I’ve been trying to step into a little more of a leadership role, and I’m really excited because I’ve seen a lot of great potential in our team so far. I’m really looking forward to my senior season,” Swanson said.

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