FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Following her decorated tenure at Northern Arizona University, the Lumberjacks' career kills leader Janae Vander Ploeg will continue her volleyball career in Sweden with the Engelholm club team. Vander Ploeg is the second former NAU volleyball player, joining Sydney Kemper, to pursue professional opportunities in Europe in the past year.
"I'm just excited to keep playing volleyball," Vander Ploeg said. "After finishing college, I realized how much I actually love the sport and I wasn't able to give it up yet. I'm excited to go to a part of the world I've never been before and it's an opportunity I'm very thankful for."
Over the summer, Vander Ploeg competed at the USA Volleyball National Championships in Orlando, alongside her NAU teammate Payton Bock, with the Arizona Sizzle team. With the showcase and help from Elite Volley Agency, Vander Ploeg received interest from a number of teams including those from France and Turkey before she zeroed in on her Swedish club.
"Engelholm was one of the first teams to make an offer," Vander Ploeg said. "Everyone on the team seems amazing and the coach is very welcoming. They're making the transition very easy. It just seems like the perfect place for me."
Vander Ploeg wrapped up her career with 1,626 kills – seventh most in Big Sky history. She also totaled 1,228 digs to rank fourth in school history and is one of five Lumberjacks to rack up both 1,000 kills and a 1,000 digs. Along with the career kills record, Vander Ploeg holds school records for kill average, attacks and sets played, while also placing fifth in career service aces and double-doubles.
The Colorado Springs, Colo. native also set an NAU season record with 563 kills last year, ranking her ninth in the country. Her performance not only helped NAU to the 2015 Big Sky regular season and tournament championships, but also earned her the distinction of the program's first ever AVCA All-American. In her senior season alone, Vander Ploeg became the first player in conference history to receive three straight Big Sky Player of the Week awards, was voted the Big Sky's regular season and tournament Most Valuable Player and selected to the AVCA Pacific North All-Region First Team.
Vander Ploeg also is the second player in school history to be a four-time all-conference honoree, joining Kemper, and is the only Lumberjack to be named to the All-Big Sky First Team three times.
"Being on my own at NAU and having the support that I did with my teachers, coaches and teammates prepared me to go somewhere new without knowing anyone," Vander Ploeg said. "It gives me confidence that I can make new friendships with my team in Sweden."