Michelle Kocher: No longer a freshman
Oct. 30, 2008
Janice Lu, Texas Media Relations
When the No. 3 Texas Volleyball team first took the floor in September, volleyball fans were greeted with a seemingly familiar, yet avery different lineup. Most noticeable was the lone freshman starter who some might have initially mistaken for former All-American setter Michelle Moriarty. After all, freshman setter Michelle Kocher was wearing the same number as Moriarty did and they also share the same first name. But Michelle Kocher is no Michelle Moriarty wannabe. Michelle Kocher is here to set her own Longhorn legacy.
Well into the season, Kocher has already proven that she is capable of not only distributing sets to her All-America hitters, but also quarterbacking the Longhorns’ offense in their quest to bring home a national title. Already named Big 12 Rookie of the Week three times, Kocher is beginning to garner more attention with her consistent play week after week.
But solid play from Kocher is not really anything new for anyone who has followed her volleyball career.
Before coming to Texas, the Wheaton, Ill., native was a member of PrepVolleyball.com's 2008 Top 100 Senior Aces and the 5-10 setter was a 2007 PrepVolleyball.com High School All-America Highest Honorable Mention selection. As a prepster, Kocher was a four-year starter at St. Francis High School and led St. Francis to a 2A State Championship in 2006, a 1A State Championship in 2004 and a 3A State Runner-up finish in 2007. Additionally, she played club volleyball for Mizuno Sports Performance Elite, leading her team to a USA 18U Junior Olympics championship in 2007 and garnering Junior Olympic All-Tournament Team honors in 2006.
But if it hadn’t been for big brother Chas, those achievements may not have happened. Kocher was first introduced to the sport of volleyball as a young girl who loved to emulate her older brother.
“I started playing volleyball in the fifth grade. My brother, who is three years older than I am, played volleyball, and he’d always be setting around the house, so I’d try to mimic him,” Kocher said. “I wanted to be like him and I’ve always considered myself a setter because that is what I started off doing. Even though I played many other sports, volleyball continued to be my sport of choice.”
As time passed and Kocher kept playing, her game kept improving thanks to her school and club coaches. Soon, many colleges, including Texas, were showing interest in having Kocher join their programs. Even though her coaches are hundreds of miles away, Kocher is still grateful for all the teaching and training.
“I’m really fortunate to have the training and background that I’ve had. I think that has prepared me for college,” Kocher said. “Even though the college level is such a higher level and faster pace and is, in a way, very different, volleyball is volleyball and I learned many of those skills from my high school and club coaches.”
Though she was recruited by a myriad of Midwestern schools, all of which are closer to home than Texas, the Forty Acres made enough of a lasting impression to convince Kocher to sign with Texas.
“There was something about Texas that just stuck. Every sport was very competitive and well known nationwide. They also have great school spirit,” Kocher recalled. “When I heard they were interested, I was surprised, but when I came here on my visit it was a no brainer. They have everything. The team is great, the coaching staff is impressive and I really could not find anything negative about the school.”
The spunky city of Austin is also a pretty good recruiting asset when trying to lure players to the University.
“I love Austin. It’s a lot different than Wheaton and that is a good thing,” Kocher said. “It’s refreshing, new and exciting.”
Nonetheless, when Kocher first arrived on campus in the summer, there was still some adjusting to do in terms of getting used to the college life.
“School is pretty busy, which in some ways I like. It was an adjustment to balance school and volleyball at the same time, especially with travel, but there are a lot of people here that are supporting us,” Kocher said. “Our academic counselors and tutors make it the best situation possible for us. I try to utilize all of that, and I think so far, so good.”
Months into the semester, Kocher is becoming more seasoned. Her numbers have gone up, however, there’s still room for improvement according to Kocher.
“You can always get better. There is always room for more improvement. I want to improve my setting, my consistency and know the system better. Those weekly awards are flattering and it’s nice to be recognized, but at the same time, I don’t focus on it too much because I don’t want to be too complacent. It’s so early in the season and in my career.”
Though this may be her first season as a Longhorn, Kocher already shares the same desires as her teammates and coaches.
“I definitely want to win a national championship, that’s a given,” Kocher said.
An integral role in the Longhorns’ quest for No. 1, Kocher also realizes that it will take a team effort for that to happen.
“They keep you motivated. My teammates and coaches keep me going, knowing that I have people behind me. This whole season is a learning process. And a lot of it I couldn’t do without my team,” Kocher said. “It’s been really fun. I think the fans are great and they are really supportive. Everyone has made the transition as smooth as possible and I really appreciate how they go out of the way to make me feel comfortable.”
And her coaches, teammates and the Texas fans can’t be more excited to see what Michelle Kocher will continue to bring to Gregory Gym over the next few years.