Keely Fink in action during her senior season at Southwestern. (Courier file photo)
Keely Fink in action during her senior season at Southwestern. (Courier file photo)
Keely Fink stepped on a volleyball court for the very first time when she was in eighth grade. Tall and athletic, she looked the part of a volleyball player, but she was raw and needed to be taught the game almost from the ground up.

But few have taken to the game like Fink. In five years she has transformed herself from just another player into Southwestern’s top offensive weapon and on Wednesday she parlayed that hard work into a college scholarship to Ancilla College in northern Indiana.

“It was between two colleges and after visiting (Ancilla) I just decided that it would be a better fit for me,” said Fink, who was joined at her signing by her family and most of her teammates. “I really wanted to go to a small school because I go to a small high school and the coach reminds me of my high school coach. It’s good to have the same feeling.”

Standing 6-foot, Fink has always been a hitter and a blocker but she was never content to rest on just that. As she got older, she added to her game and became a good enough passer and defender that by her senior year, she was on the floor for nearly all of the Rebels’ rotations.

“She’s always improved at a fast pace. Between her freshman and sophomore years, I felt like there was an explosion and a ton of improvement,” Southwestern coach Chris Johnson said. “She’s used to learning that fast pace and whatever (Ancilla) asks of her, she’s going to work hard on it and make those improvements.”

Ancilla coach Bruce Johnson loved Fink’s range of abilities and was thrilled to get her signed. However, he admitted that what drew him to her most was something that can’t be taught.

“Honestly, her height. Even though we’re a small school, we face 6-2 girls every day and I was missing that last year. Our tallest player was 5-8,” said the Ancilla coach. “We needed that height and I think Keely fits into that rotation. Whether she’ll be a six-player rotation or just front row, I don’t know, but coach (Chris Johnson) said she’s really been working on her passing and defense and it’s really possible that if she works her butt off, she can be that six-rotation person that we need.”

Chris Johnson, for one, has no doubt Fink will not only fit but thrive at Ancilla.

“She’s always been a hard worker and somebody that the younger girls look at and see that even if she is a senior, she’s still working hard,” the Rebels coach said. “She’s a great kid and she’s been through a lot in her past and I think that’s kind of helped her to become a stronger individual. She’s really resilient. She can take a lot of criticism and turn that into motivation to get even better.”

Ancilla is a two-year school and Fink said after she graduates there she can explore whether she wants to continue with her final two years of volleyball at another college. She plans to major in criminal justice.

Fink was a part of several conference championship teams while at Southwestern as the Rebels experienced a lot of success. But it will be the friendship of her teammates she will cherish the most.

“I’ll definitely miss playing with them. I got really close with a couple of the freshmen, Meaghan (Kramer) and Marissa (Naylor), and I’m going to miss them and miss playing with them,” Fink said. “I’ll definitely miss my high school team, but I’m looking forward to becoming close with my new team in college.”