Set for Success
KSU grad assists on and off the court
KENNESAW, Ga. (Dec 18, 2017) — Kristi Piedimonte spent her college years assisting others, and now she will make a career of it.
As the setter on the Kennesaw State volleyball team, Piedimonte led the Owls in assists for four straight seasons and finished second in school history with 4,005 assists. Piedimonte saved her best for last as a senior, earning First Team All-Atlantic Sun Conference honors for the second straight year and leading KSU to a school-record 21 wins, the ASUN championship and the volleyball program’s first NCAA Tournament berth.
Piedimonte achieved her volleyball success while maintaining a 4.0 grade point average and being named to the ASUN All-Academic team three times. She graduated a semester early with a nursing degree from the WellStar College of Health and Human Services and has accepted an offer to be a nurse in the intensive care unit at WellStar Kennestone Hospital in Marietta.
“Kristi is a special young woman. It has been an absolute joy to be on her journey with her these last four years,” KSU volleyball head coach Keith Schunzel said. “I have been in collegiate athletics for nearly 20 years and never have seen a student-athlete as driven as Kristi, on or off the court.”
Piedimonte made school history one more time just two days prior to her Dec. 13 graduation ceremony. She was named First Team Academic All-America by the College Sports Information Directors of America, becoming the first Kennesaw State student-athlete ever to garner CoSIDA First Team Academic All-America recognition.
“It always feels good to be recognized for academic work that I consider an expectation of myself, but I am more proud of this team, the season we had and the work we put in together,” Piedimonte said. “Our staff not only challenged us on the court, but they also encouraged us to flourish into mature and professional human beings by setting standards of success in all aspects of life.”
Piedimonte acknowledged the challenges of balancing her rigorous school and volleyball schedules — which, along with classes and homework, sometimes included two or three hours a day of volleyball practice, traveling three or four days a week for competition and logging up to 40 hours a week of hospital clinical rotations. However, she wouldn’t have had it any other way.
“My nursing friends asked me all the time, ‘How do you do volleyball and nursing at the same time?’ I answered, ‘How do you not do volleyball while you’re doing nursing?’” Piedimonte said. “Volleyball was my break from nursing, and sometimes nursing was my break from volleyball. It really created a balance in my life that I came to enjoy.”
While playing volleyball no longer will be part of her routine, Piedimonte will remain passionate about her pursuits. Piedimonte’s next step will be to pass the National Council Licensure Examination for her nursing license, and she plans to continue her education by earning a master’s degree in nursing or applying to medical school.
“I take life as a challenge,” Piedimonte said. “In everything you do, you should try to use your time to better yourself. It can be tough, but I’m of the belief that the work you put in, you get out later.”
Piedimonte credits her parents with instilling her drive to excel and inspiring her love of volleyball. As a child, she was a fixture at practices for the high school volleyball teams coached by her mother and club volleyball teams coached by her father. Piedimonte took up the sport in elementary school and became a standout high school player, earning All-State honors as a senior and Academic All-State accolades three years in a row.
Piedimonte grew up in the same city as her college coach — St. Louis, Missouri — and Schunzel recruited her to Kennesaw State after watching her play during a visit to his hometown. KSU notched only 10 wins in Piedimonte’s freshman season (Schunzel’s second as head coach), but improved each year to become a conference champion and NCAA Tournament team in her final campaign.
“This team has meant so much to me, and I truly love the sport, culture, teammates and coaches that have become family,” Piedimonte said. “Where we went from freshman year to senior year with this team was amazing.”
While Piedimonte called the volleyball team’s accomplishments “the highlight of my college career,” she said that being a student-athlete also taught her how to handle stressful situations, work and excel with a team, manage conflict and build relationships with others. In addition to her volleyball family, Piedimonte commended the WellStar School of Nursing faculty for providing an invaluable foundation for her professional career.
“I will forever be grateful for the opportunities, exposure, resources and relationships at Kennesaw State that I have had the privilege of experiencing throughout my undergraduate degree and athletic career,” Piedimonte said. “I am extremely proud to graduate as an Owl from such a fantastic university and athletic program.”
– Paul Floeckher
Photos by David Caselli
A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.