Athlete of the Week: Emma Decker, Volleyball

As Emma Decker explains it, the burden of the setter on a volleyball team is much more complex than just that of providing good service for a team’s hitters. Much like that of a quarterback in football or goaltender in hockey, “As a setter you definitely don’t get as much of the credit, and then when the team messes up you kind of get blamed for it,” Decker laughed.

Decker could afford to laugh when explaining this generally grim prognosis of players in her role, because she and her team had just beaten No. 9 Creighton, a team who had previously won 31 straight Big East contests. Her major role in that “signature win,” as Wildcats Head Coach Josh Steinbach called it, in addition to her recent individual achievement of passing Vicky Dispenza ‘92’s record of 4,123 to break the program’s career assist record, has allowed her to rise above the limits that setters are normally given. Steinbach is leading the charge of going against that trend. 

“When you have a great setter in Emma Decker, she can move the ball around and keep our hitters in good positions,” Steinbach said, of what allowed the Wildcats to beat the Bluejays in straight sets. “She was outstanding.”

At the same time, however, Steinbach is not all that surprised Decker has reached this point. “She’s a hardworking kid who’s incredibly intelligent, knows the game well and is just a great kid,” Steinbach said. “This [is what we expected]. When we got her, we were ecstatic. We thought she was a great recruit.”

Decker agrees things have gone about as she thought they would when she arrived on campus. It is just that she does not think about her athletic career at the University in terms of individual achievements. “It’s more about the team for me, I’m not really into individual stats,” Decker said. “I didn’t even think about [the record].”

While Decker is completely focused on leading her team to success in the Big East Tournament and hopefully a berth into the NCAA Tournament afterwards, her teammates recognize what a special thing it is that she has accomplished. “I’m so excited for her,” fellow senior, libero Regan Lough, said. “She’s truly the most deserving person of it, and I truly am just ecstatic for her. Watching her grow and break that record was just incredible.”

And though Decker was, and is, more focused on collective team achievements ahead, the tribute video announcing she had broken the record— full of testimonials from the alumni of the program that mean so much to her—finally got her to acknowledge the magnitude of the moment. “When it happened, and I saw that video, I started crying,” Decker said. “Seeing everyone who came before me, all the setters and how hard they worked, they understood what I went through. Having the support of all of them and my whole team made me feel really great after.”