Oct. 13—WINDHAM — The best way to describe Abby Stern's impact on the Eastern Connecticut State University women's volleyball program isn't with words.
It's with numbers.
The senior has left her mark on the Warriors' record book during her five seasons. She's currently fourth all-time in total career attacks and seventh in career kills, recently tallying her 1,000th.
"It's kind of crazy," Stern, a 5-foot-10 outside hitter, said. "Like I never thought that that's where I'd end up."
Stern's final season with the Warriors has been one of milestones. She entered the campaign ranked ninth in total career attacks, and has moved into fourth-place with 3,226.
The Manchester native became the 10th player in program history to record 1,000 career kills — and the first since current record holder Adrianna Mihalek did in 2016 — in the fourth set of a 3-2 loss at Keene State on Oct. 2.
"She was my idol. Like she's filthy," Stern said of Mihalek. "I just always looked up to her and I never thought that I'd get to follow in her footsteps."
After posting 12 kills in Eastern's Little East Conference sweep of Rhode Island College Tuesday, Stern moved into seventh all-time with 1,045, one ahead of Jenn Butts. Mihalek finished with 1,494 kills.
Stern's 10 digs Tuesday also put her at 996 for her career. If she gets to 1,000, she'll join Mihalek and Karen Ann Sweet as the only players in Eastern history to reach both 1,000 kills and 1,000 digs.
"That is very exciting to me," Stern said. "Kills, obviously it's a big accomplishment to get 1,000 kills since I'm a hitter. But I feel like the dig part, it's not that normal for an outside to get that accomplishment because they're only in the back row half the amount of time that a libero is. So, it is definitely very exciting, and I definitely did not expect that."
Stern first became interested in volleyball when she was in eighth grade after finding inspiration close to home: her older sister Anna.
"I'd go to her games and I just remember that I could not stay off," Stern said. "I just wanted to play so bad watching her play."
Like her sister, Stern attended East Catholic High. She was a three-year varsity player with the Eagles, where she was a three-time all-CCC selection and named to the all-state team her senior year.
Upon graduating in 2017, Stern felt that continuing her career at Eastern was a perfect fit.
"I loved the team when I came to visit," she said. "Our coach Meg (Silver-Droesch) is very, very nice. It was just a very welcoming family."
It didn't take her long to make an impact at Eastern. As a freshman starter, Stern was named to the All-LEC First Team and was LEC Rookie of the Year, becoming the third Warrior to win the award.
"It was definitely exciting. I did not expect it at all," Stern said. "But it kind of set the tone."
The strong performances continued over the next two seasons. Stern was named to the All-LEC Second Team in 2018 as she helped lead the Warriors to the LEC tournament title and a NCAA Division III tournament berth.
In 2019, Stern was once again named to the All-LEC First Team.
Stern was gearing up for her senior season in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic reared its head, ending the Warriors' fall season before it began.
"It was definitely challenging," Stern said. "I think in the summer going into my senior year, I kind of was like there's no chance we're having a season...It definitely was disappointing."
Eastern did play five Little East matches the following spring, though Stern described those matches as "a totally different vibe and environment."
Stern and her classmates received another year of eligibility because the team had played fewer than 11 matches due to the pandemic, allowing her to have the senior season she originally envisioned.
"All my roommates, it's their fourth year," Stern said. "So, it's nice because I thought I was going to have to come back and watch them and get sent off. But I get to go out with them."
The 22-year-old Stern will graduate in December with a degree in elementary education. She's currently working as a student-teacher in a first grade class at Birch Grove Primary School in Tolland.
She said that balancing volleyball, student-teaching and her classes has led this year to be "probably the most stressful year of my life."
"Today I woke up at 5:30, got home and went to class at 4 and then I literally ran from class to come to the game," Stern added. "Volleyball is kind of like a release for me. It's very much a stress reliever...I think I'm handling it well, but it definitely is a lot."
When asked if she had any goals left for her career given her individual accomplishments, Stern shifted the focus to the team as a whole. She hopes the Warriors can win another LEC tournament crown.
"I think this year we can do it," Stern said. "We were in a little bit of a slump, but I think we pulled out of it. If we just keep going as I know how we can play, I don't think there's a doubt."
There seemed to be little doubt when the Warriors (12-5, 4-2) welcomed the Anchorwomen to the Francis E. Geissler Gymnasium Tuesday, earning the sweep by game scores of 25-13, 25-10, 25-21.
Stern added four aces while RHAM High grads Anna Barry (10 kills) and Bella Johnson (4 kills, 1 dig) also played well.
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