Dunaway makes it official, becomes a ‘Dawg’

Volleyball star signs letter of intent with UW on Wednesday.

Kelcey Dunaway said she was a little worried that the last minute invitations she sent out meant she wouldn’t get enough people to come to her party.

But she knows now not to underestimate the support of the community.

With her volleyball teammates and coaches, her Girl Scout troop, BHS staff members and her family and friends in attendance in C-team coach Dave Layton’s room, Dunaway signed her national letter of intent to play volleyball for the University of Washington Wednesday.

It’s the first day many high school athletes can sign to declare their intent to play for the college they want to in exchange for a scholarship to that school.

Dunaway said she received plenty of interest from several schools and even got offers from two, but went with Washington because it was the “best fit.”

“It was the most comfortable,” she said. “It’s the best coaching staff, I think, and the nicest team.

“I love UW as a school and (Husky head coach) Jim’s (McLaughlin) coaching is amazing.”

But Dunaway didn’t get on their radar until two years ago, when she met McLaughlin at a summer camp.

“Jim started talking to me and it just went from there,” she said.

She also got some insight into the UW volleyball program when Husky assistant volleyball coach Leslie Tuiasasopo coached her club volleyball team.

“I got to know her and the team better,” she said.

It all added up to her receiving a scholarship offer from McLaughlin in February.

While staying close to home wasn’t much of a factor (“I’m pretty independent,” Dunaway said) she also likes the city of Seattle itself.

“I just think it’s a really cool city and it’s fun,” she said. “I like being near the water and mountains.”

Her dad, Roger, said it’s nice to have her close, but they weren’t making it a major factor.

“I would have been happy no matter where she went as long as she liked the school as far as the academics (go),” he said. “But she’s going to one of the better programs in the nation so I’m real happy about that.”

The Huskies, under McLaughlin, have turned around their program from doormat to dominant, winning two Pac-10 titles and making it to the NCAA tournament for the past seven seasons, collecting three Final Four appearances and one national title in 2005.

Dunaway said the prestige of the program was a nice bonus as well.

“It definitely helps that they’ve been consistently in the Final Four,” she said. “I knew I wanted to play on a competitive team where I would be challenged... it’ll be fun to be in the Pac-10 and playing at such a competitive school.”

But playing D-I volleyball was never a dream when Dunaway started out.

She first got involved with volleyball in seventh grade when she played for the team at Commodore Middle School.

“I was tall so it worked out,” she said. “I wasn’t that athletic as a kid – I wasn’t even very good at volleyball when I first started.”

Dunaway had tried several other sports but couldn’t find one that she was good at.

But when volleyball clicked with her, she kept with it through club volleyball in the offseason with Washington Academy and Kent Juniors.

Roger also said that spending time with BodyLink in Poulsbo helped improve her vertical as well.

The work paid off as she played for the JV team her freshman year, then moved into the starting rotation as a sophomore.

Now, she’ll move on to the big stage next season, becoming the third player in four years to sign with a Division I school along with teammate Hannah Stuart (now at George Washington University) and head coach Julie Miller’s daughter Michelle (now at the University of New Mexico).

“It’s very exciting,” Miller she said. “She’s really grown as a person and as a player and become her own person.

“It’ll be really fun to go watch Kelcey play.”

Dunaway feels she’s “got a long way to go” to get ready for next season, but she’s excited about the next chapter of her life.

“It’ll be a blast,” she said. “I’ve talked to a lot of the girls and they’ve said it was the best time of their lives.”

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