Outside hitter Makena Ehlert ’20 recorded 19 kills and two blocks to lead Brown in a win against Columbia over the weekend. Ehlert, a senior from Orange County, CA., played in all 99 sets last season and has been on the court for every set so far this season. She leads the team in overall kills, kills per set, rotation points, points per set and total attempts. She is currently second in the Ivy League this season for most kills at 209 and most points at 234. For her efforts against Columbia, Ehlert has been named The Herald’s Athlete of the Week.
Herald: What do you wish more people knew about volleyball?
Ehlert: There’s a lot more strategy to it than people realize. This came up recently when our coach was talking to the basketball coaches because when you miss a basket, you don’t automatically score a point for the other team. You might be giving them an opportunity, but you aren’t putting a point on the board for them. In volleyball, your mistake physically puts a point on the board for the other team. It adds another level of pressure.
What do you attribute your success to this season?
Everything is really dependent on the ball you’re getting. … There’s three touches on the court. Every kill starts with a good pass. The good pass has to be turned into a good set, and that has to become a kill on my end. That’s the only thing I control, so I couldn’t do what I do without my teammates. Also, when I go to get a kill, half the time I get blocked and there’s someone behind me to cover, which is really important. That’s what enables me to swing harder. Beyond that, it’s just using your eyes and communicating with your team.
How are you making the most of your final season?
I’ve felt the pressure, honestly. I want senior year to be my best year so far, so I’ve been really keeping an eye on my stats from previous seasons. Trying to beat those numbers has been a goal. On a team level, we’re part of a changing program. We have a new coach who is just in his second year. With that comes a lot of cultural change and change in actual play. We finished seventh in the league my (first) year and eighth my sophomore year. In Coach (Ahen) Kim’s first year, we bumped up to fifth. So, I’m hoping my senior year will also be our best conference finish.
Are there any specific statistics you’re aiming to beat?
My (first) year was my best offensive year — 192 kills for the season. Right now, I’m at 209 this season. I’m excited that I’ve beaten (my first-year mark) while we’re only halfway through (Ivy League play), and I’d like to keep pushing it.
What’s your favorite workout facility on campus?
During (the) season our training time is fully committed to the team. We do our lifting as a team in the athlete area, which is a nice facility. On my own time I go to yoga classes. When we’re not in season, I don’t work out that much on campus. I go to Orange Theory on North Main a lot — it’s so fun.
What are your interests outside of volleyball?
I love the beach, of course, being from California. I really like to ski during the winter. (My family) goes to (Park City, Utah) a lot to ski. You could say skiing is my secondary sport. I spend a lot of time playing beach volleyball at home. I definitely spend a lot of time at workout classes.
How will volleyball factor into your life when you leave Brown?
Volleyball has taught me a lot of lessons, especially (from) being a leader on the team this year. … Time management skills are key (in volleyball), but they will be later on in life, too. Volleyball teaches you a level of drive and commitment to something I’ll now always have in me, having played the sport for this long. It encourages you to stay 100 percent in everything you’re doing and put that extra time in because you realize the payoff really does come later. Playing specifically, there won’t be much volleyball after college. My body hurts, and I don’t know how much it’ll be able to take after this. But beach volleyball is considered a separate NCAA sport. So there is a chance that if I were to go back to school for my MBA, I could play beach volleyball during that time, as long as I’m under 25.
What are your plans after graduation?
I did an internship in advertising over the summer and loved it. I definitely want to try to get into an advertising agency or marketing team, maybe fashion oriented. I don’t like setting super strict plans for my future; I’d rather just see where it takes me. But with advertising you don’t get hired until around May anyway, so we will see. A position at Chanel would be the dream job. With volleyball on the side, for sure. I’ll always play volleyball for fun, it’s ingrained in me.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.