Volleyball's Kalina Smith to end senior season early to injury


Central Michigan outside hitter Kalina Smith serves against Akron Oct. 25 at McGuirk Arena.

Kalina Smith turned out to be one of the cornerstones in coach Mike Gawlik's second recruiting class for the CMU volleyball team. 

An offensive power throughout her career, Smith, a senior outside hitter from Powell, Wyoming, became one of the mainstays for the Chippewa program. 

However, Smith was forced to retire from the sport. 

In an Instagram post on Feb. 3, Smith announced her career had come to a close just two weeks into the adjusted 22-game Mid-American Conference season. 

Smith wrote in the post she had suffered a significant shoulder injury and did not foresee an opportunity to continue with the sport.

"As hard as it is to say goodbye to a game I've always loved, I am ready to see where my life is going to take me next," Smith wrote in her heartfelt post. 

Smith added she is grateful to CMU for the knowledge she has been able to build up and the friendships she has formed while in the maroon and gold. 

"I truly am thankful for how much I have learned and grown into the person I am today," Smith wrote. "The last four years have been up and down, but I wouldn’t change them for the world."

In an interview with Central Michigan Life in November, Smith said that she would not be taking the extra year of eligibility the NCAA granted to Division I athletes due to COVID-19.

"I never doubted that she was going to bring her energy and her grit to practice," Gawlik said. "It's unfortunate that it ended the way it did. I wish her all the best and I feel like she gave her heart to the floor and to competition and was a big piece in moving our program in the right direction."

Smith's teammate and junior outside hitter Savannah Thompson showed gratitude for Smith's energy, leadership and dedication to the team. 

"She brings a really competitive spirit and that's something we'll miss in the gym," Thompson said. "She's always fired up to play and that's always really encouraging to have someone like that next to you."

Junior middle blocker Maddie Whitfield added that Smith's presence throughout her time on the team provided opportunities for other teammates to build capabilities similar to hers.

Smith joined the Chippewas in 2017 and totaled 191 kills across 83 sets her freshman year. 

The following season, she led the team in kills with 328 in 103 sets, and was named Second Team All-MAC.

In 2019, she led in kills again with 364 and was named First Team All-MAC.

In 2018, 2019 and 2021, she was named to the West All-MAC Preseason Team. 

Smith is expected to graduate in May 2021 with a bachelor's degree in Early Childhood Development and Learning.