By Mary Pennekamp ’20
“SHE’S A FRESHMAN! clap clap clapclapclap, SHE’S A FRESMAN!” clap clap clapclapclap. Upon waking into a 2011 Concordia Cadets volleyball match, this deafening chant started by the student section fills the room.
Looking at the six girls on the court, everyone’s eye falls upon the freshman about whom they’re chanting — Tionna Williams. Little does anyone know that this powerful Cadet freshman would one day play professionally for the top volleyball league, Bundesllga 1, in Germany.
After playing volleyball in college for the Wisconsin Badgers, Tionna, a 2015 Concordia graduate, got in contact with different teams looking for players around the world. This was when she found the opportunity to play in Germany.
Playing volleyball professionally had always been Tionna’s dream, even from a young age. She always knew that she wanted to play volleyball for as long as possible.
Even though this is a dream come true for her, Tionna admits that her path has not always been easy. From rides to practices, to paying club fees, to countless hours in the gym, Tionna says, “I would not be where I’m at today if it wasn’t for God. He gives me the strength to push through when I don’t think that I can go any further.”
This testament to her faith is summed up in her favorite Bible verse, Romans 8:18: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
“(God) reminds me that I have a bigger purpose than just being a volleyball player,” Tionna said.
Being a professional athlete gave her a voice to bring attention to topics that she is passionate about, such as mental health awareness and giving back to the community. She is passionate about teaching the next generation that it is OK to ask for help, to put aside pride, to reach out to others, and to lift each other up. That is one of Tionna’s biggest takeaways from playing volleyball — nothing can be done on your own.
Another one of Tionna’s notable learning moments from volleyball is that nothing happens overnight. In order to accomplish anything, it takes patience, hard work, commitment, sacrifice, and resilience.
“I learned to dream big,” she said. “No dream is too big honestly. I’m just a girl from the south side of Fort Wayne that became a three time D1 All-American, trained with the U.S. National Team head coach in Anaheim, (played) professional volleyball, and (saw) the world.”
From winning state championships at Concordia to playing professionally in Germany and today, returning home to coach a new set of Concordia Cadets, Concordia is proud to have Tionna Williams as a Cadet.