Emily DeWalt has been the starting setter for Texas State volleyball since she began to play for the team in 2018. Since then, she's racked up four Sun Belt Conference Setter of the Year awards, was named to the All-Sun Belt First Team four times and was the first player in program history to be Division I American Volleyball Coaches Association All-American.
DeWalt, a graduate student, has left her mark on the Texas State volleyball program. As one of the most decorated players in program history, she has had a positive and inspirational impact on both her teammates and coaches.
In her final year at Texas State she has cemented herself as one of the best athletes in program history, holding the record for career assists and looks to end her super-senior year with a championship.
Texas State volleyball head coach Sean Huiet said that he enjoys the relationship the two of them have built over the past four years.
“There’s stuff that Emily DeWalt does that you don’t teach. It’s been fun to help work with her, it’s more of a, ‘we do this together.’ She is a very high-level player," Huiet said. "She always comes in, she’s ready to work."
DeWalt began her volleyball career when she was in second grade. Her curiosity for the sport was influenced the year prior when her classmates began playing volleyball, but she was not old enough to join them just yet. Her friends were a year ahead of her so she could not wait to start playing with them the next season.
“I remember when I started to play volleyball in second grade. My best friend — who actually plays for Texas A&M — her mom was our volleyball coach," DeWalt said. "I think there was only eight on the team, but it was fun."
As soon as she began playing, the sport became her life. In high school, volleyball became DeWalt's primary focus above other sports she played, like softball or basketball.
Even through years of practices, tournaments and injuries, DeWalt's passion for the sport has not burned out.
“I like the team dynamic of [volleyball], I also like that it’s fast-paced but we get time to stop and celebrate what has just occurred. I’m a sports junkie so I probably would’ve been happy playing softball, basketball, or whatever but I like that when we do something well, we have time to stop and celebrate each other before the play starts again. It’s not like basketball where you have to just turn around and play defense. I like that it’s fast-paced but you get to slow down sometimes,” DeWalt said.
During the 2020 season, DeWalt suffered a career-threatening shoulder injury in a nonconference game against the University of Texas at El Paso. Despite being advised to get surgery by team doctors, DeWalt decided that, because she had another year of eligibility due to the NCAA's eligibility extension for Division I athletes impacted by the pandemic, she was instead going to rest and do rehab for her shoulder.
DeWalt's decision to opt out of surgery allowed her to continue playing in the 2021 season, albeit with a torn rotator cuff. She achieved the title of the Sun Belt Player of the Year for the 2021 season, which was an emotional award for both DeWalt and Huiet.
"The day I got to tell her she was setter of the year and player of the year we both cried and had some good, happy tears because it was a hard season for her mentally," Huiet said. "For her to be setter of the year for the fourth year in a row and player of the year playing through a pretty major injury, that was a pretty special moment.”
DeWalt's teammate and senior middle blocker Tessa Marshall said that DeWalt's volleyball IQ is higher than anyone she's ever played with, making for a different experience on the court.
"She knows where everyone is on the court at all times, whether it’s her side of the court or the team we’re playing," Marshall said. "She’s also helped push me and understand the game in different ways... I feel like she makes everyone around her a smarter player."
Texas State volleyball has played in five consecutive Sun Belt Conference title games, with a loss coming last year against South Alabama denying the team four straight Sun Belt titles.
For DeWalt, the end goal for the 2022 season, her final season playing at Texas State, is simple: return back to the Sun Belt Conference championship and take back the Sun Belt title.
“That’s always the goal. We need to take it one game at a time, but by the end of the season conference champion is definitely the goal for this year, and to get into the NCAA tournament,” DeWalt said.