Knights senior wins national title
Alden-Conger triple-athlete part of championship volleyball team
The summer before her senior year at Alden-Conger, Erika Bute accomplished a feat that many young volleyball players dream of achieving. Bute, along with her teammates on the Northern Lights 17-1 volleyball team, won the national championship at the USA Girls’ Junior National Championship tournament.
The tournament was in Detroit over the week of June 30-July 3. The Northern Lights 17-1 team finished the tournament with a record of 9-2, only losing four sets through its 11 tournament games.
“It meant so much to my team and I to have accomplished our ultimate goal, which was to become national champions,” Bute said. “Seeing your hard work payoff makes you really reflect back on the challenges you faced along the way and realize that every one of them were worth it at the end of the day.”
Bute has been passionate about volleyball from a young age. She said she doesn’t remember exactly how she heard about the Northern Lights team, but she remembers her mother asking if she wanted to give it a shot the night before tryouts. She didn’t know much about the team at the time, but looking back, she’s very happy she did it.
“I am not entirely sure what makes me so passionate or dedicated to the sport,” she said. “If I had to pick something, it would probably be my competitiveness. Volleyball is a super competitive sport and there is always something going on during the game, which I love. I am never satisfied, I am always looking for new goals to accomplish.”
Passion is an aspect that was shared by everyone on the team. Team members always came to practice ready to do what it takes to reach their goal of a national championship, she said. After spending countless hours together over the eight months prior to the tournament, Bute said the team became more like a family.
Although the team accomplished its goal of a national championship, it didn’t come without making some big sacrifices.
Bute said her schedule became pretty hectic at times. There were times when she would go to school during the day, have basketball practice from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m., drive an hour and 20 minutes to volleyball practice, have volleyball practice from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m., drive back home and then work on her homework for the day.
“I traveled a lot for practice and also spent many weekends gone in another state for tournaments, so a lot of times I would miss out on some of the fun things that my school friends were doing together,” she said. “It was not always easy and some days I would ask myself why I put myself through it, but like I said before, I would do it all over again.”
Bute’s advice for any young athletes who are thinking of joining a traveling team is to always work hard at every chance you get. She said there are going to be many challenges and sacrifices along the way, but you will never regret working hard and reaching the goals you set out for yourself.
Despite the hardship she faced along the way, Bute said she wouldn’t have been able to do it without her great support system.
“I am very thankful for the support system I have from my friends, family and coaches,” she said. “I would not be able to have had the playing opportunities I have had without my parents. They support me 100 percent and always push me to get better. I am also very thankful to get to play with a group of such elite athletes.”
Some of Bute’s teammates have already committed to many different colleges, including Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, USC, UCLA and Wake Forest. Bute said she hasn’t quite made her college choice yet, but hopes to make the decision soon.