In the offseason, Bradley volleyball dipped into the transfer portal looking for some experience in their back line and found a former Power Five libero in graduate transfer Dru Kuck.
Kuck has a volleyball background from her early childhood, growing up in Wisconsin where both of her parents played and coached the sport.
“I was in the gym from a very young age,” Kuck said.
This background developed her playing style, which led to her being recognized as the second-ranked player in the state of Wisconsin coming out of high school. After being a highly sought-after recruit, Kuck committed to Kansas State and played there for two seasons.
“I really just liked the people and the campus there and it just kind of made sense,” Kuck said.
Needing a change of scenery, Kuck entered the portal following her sophomore year and chose the University of Alabama, where she racked up over 450 digs and played in 39 matches.
Playing in one of the best conferences in the country, Kuck faced many challenges. However, she approached them as learning opportunities as she got to play some of the best teams the nation had to offer.
“In the SEC there’s every type of hitter and player you can think of and no team is the same,” Kuck said. “So it’s always something new and it’s always keeping you on your toes, especially defensively.”
After playing for two Power Five teams, Kuck chose to take her talents to Peoria and play for head coach Alicia Williams, joining a Bradley side that needed help building a solid base. Kuck had offers from Power Five schools on the table, but instead chose to be a big fish in a smaller pond.
“I’ve already been to two Power Five schools so obviously I looked at some,” Kuck said. “But I wanted to focus more on academics-wise and somewhere that I truly enjoy everything like academics, athletics, and just being a human being so being at Bradley just felt right.”
At Bradley, Kuck has brought a defensive force to the back line as well as a competitive attitude that inspires everyone around her to do better and dive for the ball that may seem out of reach.
“She comes in and you can just tell she’s a different kind of athlete,” Williams said. “Her energy is kind of contagious and it really showed the rest of our players what it takes to just be engaged though the entire play, go after balls that maybe they didn’t think that they could get and just what a Power Five athlete looks like.”
The team has Kuck’s old assistant coach at Alabama, Ladislav Lelkes, to thank for bringing her to Bradley. Lelkes assisted tremendously in the recruiting effort, helping Bradley nab Kuck over schools like FIU and Arizona.
“[Lelkes] coached her at Alabama and he said she is the most competitive libero I have ever coached,” Williams said.
Heading into the offseason, Bradley knew they needed a new piece in the back line with their former libero, Serena Sparks, graduating. So, they looked to the portal.
“We were hoping to get a transfer because we wanted someone that already had experience at a high level,” Williams said. “We felt like we needed to make a climb defensively and that obviously starts with a great libero.”
Like a shortstop in baseball, the libero is the natural leadership position in volleyball, so it makes sense that Kuck is a vocal leader on and off the court.
“She is already a leader on our team,” Williams said. “She just has a no-excuses mentality and even through some aches and pains she has been going through, she has been like, ‘I’m playing’ and I think that’s good for our girls to see.”
Kuck has been a more than welcome addition, as through thirteen games she leads the team with 3.77 digs per set – over a dig more than the next highest Brave.
Bradley is 7-6 and is three wins away from matching last year’s win total with Kuck in the backline, a goal they hope to get closer to with this weekend’s matches against Northern Iowa and Drake at home.