It’s easy to say that Penn students grow throughout their time on campus. Adapting to a new city and lifestyle poses challenges, especially for student athletes, who must then also learn how to balance their academic and athletic careers with their social lives.
As a sophomore, Margaret Planek is an example of how much someone can grow from one year to the next. She’s making her presence known as an opposite hitter on the volleyball court and has earned a standing as one of Penn volleyball’s top performers. She’s a player to watch, as well as a great classmate.
Planek began her volleyball career at a young age after her sisters took part in the sport, joining a team in grammar school for multiple seasons. She then ramped up her commitment to the sport in high school, playing for both her high school team and a club team simultaneously.
The Oak Park, Ill. native didn’t always see herself as a college athlete, but as she continued to improve on the court, her prospects increased in appeal, and Planek decided to follow in her older brother’s footsteps and become a college athlete.
“I’m the youngest of five siblings, two sisters and two brothers, and they’ve influenced everything I’ve done. They’re really big role models for me," she said. “One of my brothers played basketball in college and that’s how I got the idea I might want to do something like that. I didn’t start playing super-competitive club until my junior year of high school, and then playing collegiately became kind of a reality. I dialed in, switched clubs, and got my list together of schools I’d be interested in.”
Planek was recruited to Penn before current coach Iain Braddak signed onto the team, but completed her first season under his guidance. She explained that when she was looking at schools, she knew Penn was the right choice for her.
“[With Penn], everything just kind of fell into place. I took my visit here, and it just felt like home," she said.
After joining the Red and Blue, Planek kicked it into high gear on the volleyball court. She anticipates concentrating in finance and data analytics at Wharton with a minor in data science from the Engineering School. She’s also involved in the Sports Analytics Club and is a member of Penn’s Chi Omega sorority.
During her first volleyball season at Penn, Planek started in seven of the 25 games and notched 50 kills. She also secured the game-winning point with a kill in the team’s first win of the season against Georgetown, and recorded her first career double-double in that same game, racking up 13 kills and 13 digs.
“I really like having that backbone support [from the team] where people really know what’s going on, what you’re going through, and how much time you’re spending on everything,” Planek said.
Planek's freshman season also proved significant for her overall growth as a player, as she was able to take constant advantage of the opportunity to learn from successful older players on the team.
“Last year, we had a lot of upperclassmen, and it was really cool to come in and be a part of that. And then this year we’re transitioning, we lost a big senior class, and having people that are younger than you forces you to step into that leadership role,” Planek said. “So that’s the biggest thing, making sure that I’m carrying on what’s been taught to me and that legacy.”
This season, Planek earned her spot as a team leader, and her passion for the sport and her team is contagious. Family is very important to Planek, and she has found that the volleyball team fosters a warm, familial culture. Her sister lives in New York and makes an effort to attend home games and those against Columbia in support of Planek and the team.
Moving forward, although she’s still figuring out her intended path, Planek hopes to spend time working in New York in the finance sector. In the meantime, though, she’ll continue to dominate on the court with her quickly-improving team and in the classroom here in Philadelphia.
“The team has been working super hard this year, and it's really really cool to be a part of it and to be a part of a program that’s bigger than itself,” Planek said.
Planek's passion for her team and her growth mindset are intoxicating and is another reason for fans to get excited about the rest of the season for the Quakers.