PHOTO | Margarita Lopez
Brianna Merkel is in her senior year at Tech, majoring in accounting and finance. Originally from Franklin, Wisconsin, she moved to Tech to be a student-athlete.
Merkel is a four-year volleyball player for the Golden Suns and started her journey at 6 years old.
“My parents were involved in a sand volleyball league, and us kids would try and play alongside them. They finally put me into an instructional volleyball program so I could learn the basics. When I was 9, I tried out for a local volleyball club; I made the team,” she said.
Merkel has been playing since learning the game and growing stronger as an athlete and student.
“Choosing to play for Tech was the balance between education and getting to play the game I love. The professors are incredibly supportive and are willing to help if you ask,” Merkel said. “Coach Kera has been amazing; she really cares about us and would do anything for us.”
Having played for years, Merkel has had many standouts in her career, including being awarded the 2021 All-Tournament Team and 2020 All-GAC Honorable Mention.
However, one of her favorite moments from her career was the conference tournament last year.
“Going into the match, we knew it would be tough; Oklahoma Baptist was good. The match went into a fifth set, and we were down 7-1. We fought and finished the match scoring 14 of the last 17 points. I will never forget the team running onto the court and piling on top of one another, crying tears of joy and finally accomplishing our goal,” she said.
Merkel took on a leadership role during her senior year, working to make players feel welcome and acclimated to the team and Russellville.
“I’ve been the new girl and know how it feels to struggle with being homesick, and it’s important, especially as a senior player, to be flexible and friendly. Each year the team looks different, but we make that family bond,” Merkel said.
Her goals this year for the team are to win the conference tournament and make it to the regionals of the national tournament.
Some of Merkel’s biggest supporters have been her family.
“Seeing my parents go to work every day to be able to support me in what I love has been inspiring, and I will be forever grateful for what they have done and continue to do for me,” she said.
Outside the court, Merkel enjoys being outdoors, hammocking, or taking a trip in a canoe. She also enjoys traveling, has been to 27 states, and hopes to make it to the other 23 states.
After school, Merkel plans on getting her MBA and working for an accounting firm while coaching volleyball.