Outside hitter, Miriam Unongo, is one of five freshmen on the 20-member St. Thomas volleyball squad this season.
“I’m learning a lot. It’s a lot different than high school,” Unongo, a Minneapolis DeLaSalle High School graduate, told the MSR after a recent practice. Collegiate volleyball “is a lot faster than clubs. I don’t really think anything could have gotten me ready for this.”
The six-foot outside hitter, a two-time all-conference selection, as a senior helped DeLaSalle to its first Minnesota state tournament appearance as Section 3AAA champions and a semi-finalist as a junior in 2021.
A four-year honor roll and National Honor Society member, Unongo earned the school’s Servant Scholar Award. She fully understands the importance of education and keeping it in proper perspective as a student-athlete. As a high schooler, her extracurricular activities included executive board secretary on the student council.
Her first semester as a collegiate is naturally a transition period, adjusting to life after high school. She calls herself a “nerd” at school—and always wants it to be a priority over volleyball. “My academics are really important. The school really emphasizes it, especially for minority students.
“They have so many resources and opportunities compared to other schools that I was looking at,” said Unongo. “That was a big factor for me.”
Unongo is St. Thomas’ only Black volleyball player this season. Rather than standing out, she instead fits in well in the mostly young Tommies squad (nine sophomores and five froshs).
“I really connected with them during my official visit,” recalled Unongo of her recruiting visit to campus. “Everyone was very welcoming. They’re also supportive during bad days, when I wasn’t playing well.
“It’s very exciting because we’ve been working hard all preseason,” noted Unongo. “I think it started over the summer… We really pushed each other in the gym” and in the weight room.
“I just say it’s the pace of the game and the pace of school in general, because everything just moves quicker,” the Tommies’ first-year player pointed out. “You have to be ready for the ball to come back. And school work just keeps piling up.”
The South Minneapolis native said that freshman homesickness hasn’t hit her yet. “I live 15 minutes away [from the St Paul campus],” stressed Unongo. “I’ve gone home a few times now, but I still miss them,” she said of her family.
The Tommies player’s college plans include majoring in business administration and minoring in data analytics. Pursuing a law career might also be part of her future as well—Unongo was a high school mock trial captain. “I’m thinking about going into law, specifically IP—intellectual property. There are so many possibilities. I’m not sure.”
Unongo offers some advice to young Black girls thinking about playing volleyball. “I’d love to encourage more girls of color to get into volleyball,” she said. “I feel like there’s so many opportunities with the sport alone,” she said, including possibly earning a college scholarship.