A Community of Lifelong Learners

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Faculty & Staff Stories in Fine Print, the Magazine of Rowland Hall

Sara Matsumura playing volleyball.

Haverford College senior Sara Matsumura ’16 added to her impressive list of achievements on September 9, when she was awarded the Centennial Conference’s Player of the Week after being named Most Valuable Player of the Ford Invitational only two days earlier. Then, on September 16, the NCAA announced that Sara was ranked third in Division III in total digs and seventh in service aces.

“I am over-the-moon ecstatic,” Sara said about the start of her senior season.

Despite the recent attention she has personally received, the Haverford volleyball co-captain remained focused on her team. “It is amazing to see all of our hard work coming to fruition and so motivating to see everyone reaching and playing at their full potential,” she said. “I feel a lot of appreciation for the group of girls I get to play with."

I am over-the-moon ecstatic. It is amazing to see all of our hard work coming to fruition and so motivating to see everyone reaching and playing at their full potential.—Sara Matsumura, Class of 2016

Kendra Tomsic, Sara’s former coach and Rowland Hall’s director of athletics, was not surprised to learn of Sara’s focus on teamwork. “Sara never cared about individual stats or accolades—she loved her teammates and celebrated their accomplishments as if they were her own,” she said of Sara’s time playing for the Winged Lions. “Her unmatched work ethic, positive attitude, fiery spirit, enthusiasm, heart, and passion for the game were an inspiration to her teammates and coaches.”
 
Kendra also praised Sara’s athletic prowess. “Sara is undoubtedly one of the most talented volleyball players to come out of our program. Her stats were tops in nearly every category, and she was instrumental to our winning several consecutive region titles,” she said. “I am so very proud and excited, but definitely not surprised, that Sara has continued to excel and has made such an amazing impact on her Haverford College team.”
 
Sara credited Rowland Hall for preparing her for success at the college level, both on the court and in the classroom. “The endless support I received from Rowland Hall’s coaching staff gave me the confidence I needed to gain an I-own-the-court mentality. As a back-row player, that is essential and has definitely been tested when facing strong teams,” she said. “Rowland Hall also prepared me to balance school and volleyball, as academics is our top priority at Haverford too.”
 
These balancing skills, first gained at Rowland Hall and then strengthened at Haverford, are essential to Sara’s success. When she isn’t excelling on the court, the chemistry major is researching microplastics and bioplastics for her senior thesis. After graduation, she plans on taking a gap year to work at an environmentally focused company, then earning a PhD in environmental engineering or chemistry. Armed with an arsenal of skills she has gathered as a student-athlete, we have no doubt she’ll continue to do great things, and we can’t wait to see them.

Update November 12, 2019: Sara was selected for a first-team spot for the 2019 All-Centennial Conference volleyball teams; this is the third consecutive season Sara has been named to an All-Centennial squad. She was also named to the Centennial Conference All-Sportsmanship team for the fourth consecutive season, becoming the first player in program history to earn that distinction four times since the introduction of the plaudit to the conference's postseason awards in 2009. Read the news release.

Update November 14, 2019: Sara was selected to the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Division III All-Mid Atlantic Region team. She is the first Haverford player to garner all-region honors since 2015. Read the news release.

Update November 19, 2019: Sara was named an All-America Honorable Mention. She is the first Haverford player to be included on the list since 2015 and the tenth in program history. Read the news release.

Update July 14, 2020: Sara is one of 605 nominees for the 2020 NCAA Woman of the Year. Read the news release.

Congratulations, Sara!


Top of page: Sara Matsumura playing in a Haverford College volleyball game. (Photo courtesy David Sinclair)

Alumni

Kendra Tomsic coaching a volleyball game.

Kendra Tomsic fell in love with sports at a young age, but when she was growing up, schools didn’t offer girls’ teams. Instead of deterring her, that early experience sparked a passion that still drives her today.

“As a pre-Title IX athlete who never had a coach or even the chance to compete until college, I vowed to help make certain others would have the opportunities I didn’t,” Kendra told attendees of YWCA Utah’s Leader Luncheon on September 13, as she accepted this year’s Outstanding Achievement Award for Sports and Athletics.

As a pre-Title IX athlete who never had a coach or even the chance to compete until college, I vowed to help make certain others would have the opportunities I didn’t.—Kendra Tomsic

She continued, “I made a commitment to become a coach and athletic director who would not only teach female athletes skills and strategies, but who would use sports to teach and model leadership, strength, confidence, courage, tenacity, resiliency, and the importance of teamwork.”

Kendra’s 42 years of dedication to this work—28 of them at Rowland Hall in roles including director of athletics, PE teacher, and volleyball, softball, and basketball coach—led YWCA Utah to select her as one of five women honored at this year’s luncheon. Award recipients are community leaders who advance the well-being of Utah women and girls, and who exemplify the YWCA’s mission of eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all. In her roles as an administrator, educator, and coach, Kendra has harnessed her passion for athletics to empower Utah girls and women and to promote high school athletics at the state and national levels.

“It's not possible to overstate her positive impact on athletics in general and girls’ athletics in particular in Utah,” said Head of School Alan Sparrow. “Her commitment to getting women's athletics treated with the same opportunities and respect as men's athletics is inspirational. Through her dedication, diplomacy, and tenacity, girls’ athletics in Utah high schools have improved dramatically. She is universally respected by her peers and they listen to her when she points out inequities.” They’ve also celebrated her: Kendra’s long list of accolades includes a national Distinguished Service Award and state Athletic Director of the Year. But it’s praise from students that best illustrates the importance, and reach, of Kendra’s work. When news of the YWCA award was posted on Rowland Hall’s alumni Facebook page, an outpouring of love quickly followed, resulting in the page’s highest interaction to date.

“I am proud to say I know her.”

“There’s no one more deserving!”

“She’s amazing in every way and her dedication to making young women better athletes and, above that, better people cannot be topped!”

Kendra Tomsic with YWCA CEO Anne Burkholder.

Kendra Tomsic, right, with YWCA Chief Executive Officer Anne Burkholder at the September 13 Leader Luncheon. (Photo courtesy Charles Uibel Photography)

Kacie Tachiki Turcuato ’99 is one alumna who can attest to Kendra’s transformative power. The former volleyball player remembers her coach as a true mentor who believed in her potential, and who had the special ability to bring out and refine her strengths.

“I’m not a natural-born athlete,” Kacie said. “I’m super short and in my first year of high school I was very weak; I couldn’t even get a serve over the net. I just played because it was fun and recreational. But Kendra believed in me, she worked with me, and by the time I left Rowland Hall, I was a stronger athlete: I got the school’s Senior Athlete of the Year, I got Salt Lake Tribune’s Prep Athlete of the Week. I went from feeling like I couldn’t do anything to really feeling accomplished.”

Kacie called Kendra one of the most influential people in her life, and that influence didn’t stop at graduation. Her guidance has inspired Kacie in many ways, from pursuing a career in physical therapy to returning to Rowland Hall as an assistant volleyball coach.

Students have the utmost respect for her, because they just know who she is. When she talks, everyone’s engaged and they trust her.—Kacie Tachiki Turcuato ’99

“I feel so lucky because I honestly think I’d be somewhere totally different without her,” Kacie said. “I’ve had a very fortunate, successful career and life, and I can’t imagine what would have happened if I hadn’t met her. She can really bring out the best in you.”

Alan also spoke of this capability. “Kendra's deep commitment and caring for each and every player and coach she works with is obvious,” he said. “You can hear it in her tone of voice when she speaks to the students. You can see it in the compassion she shows when a player or student is upset or hurt. You notice it when she genuinely shows interest in her students’ lives outside and inside of school.”

Kendra’s compassion comes up again and again when people talk about her; it’s an important factor in how she mentors others. Coupled with an ability to build trust, Kendra successfully models life skills such as confidence, resiliency, and teamwork on the court and field—and students respond to it. “Students have the utmost respect for her, because they just know who she is,” said Kacie. “When she talks, everyone’s engaged and they trust her. It’s pretty cool to watch.”

This is true for Gita Varner ’05, a former volleyball and softball team manager, whose strongest memories of Kendra involve the life lessons she learned from her and now uses every day.

“Kendra was a role model for me on how to be true to yourself and accept everyone as they come,” Gita said. Kendra’s high standards also taught her the importance of hard work. “She helped instill a strong work ethic in me because she always expected me to be doing something.”

Courage, sacrifice, determination, commitment, toughness, heart, talent, and guts—that’s what little girls are made of. To heck with sugar and spice!

And it may be inspiring students to use, and then themselves model, those life skills during and after their time at Rowland Hall that means the most to Kendra. As she closed her remarks at the Leader Luncheon, she shared a quote from professional surfer Bethany Hamilton-Dirks, along with a reminder of the role we all play in female empowerment: “‘Courage, sacrifice, determination, commitment, toughness, heart, talent, and guts—that’s what little girls are made of. To heck with sugar and spice!’ It is my work, and your work, to continue to send that message to young women, the future leaders of tomorrow.”

Thank you, Coach T, for this important lesson, and for the many others you teach student-athletes every day. Congratulations on this well-deserved recognition.

People

Bobby Kennedy Named 2A Coach of the Year
By Kendra Tomsic, director of athletics
 
Bobby Kennedy, girls soccer head coach, was recently nominated by Region 14 and subsequently selected by the Utah High School Activities Association (UHSAA) awards committee as a recipient for a 2015 Distinguished Service Award as the 2A Coach of the Year, not simply for soccer, but for all 2A sports.
 
As a soccer coach with 25 years experience including playing both collegiately and professionally, Bobby understands the game extremely well and has a true gift for passing that knowledge along to his athletes. He uses a style that seems to bring out the best in each one of them. Bobby is demanding yet patient and encouraging, and his efforts over the past 12 years have brought Rowland Hall a state runner-up trophy for the girls team in 2006, the State 2A Girls Championship in 2014, a Region 14 title this season, and a berth in the State 2A Girls semi-finals this year. He led the boys soccer team to a number-one ranking in 2007 and to back-to-back Boys 2A State championships in 2008 and 2009. Bobby is a superior role model and well-rounded coach who cares more about the heart and the effort of his players than about accomplishments, recognition, or trophies. These are the characteristics that led the UHSAA to select him for this prestigious award.
 
The UHSAA Distinguished Service Award was initiated in 1987 to honor individuals for their service and contributions to high school activities. It is the association’s way of saying thank you on behalf of the many lives that honorees have touched during their careers.
 
Bobby will be honored at an awards luncheon in January. Congratulations, BK, on an honor well earned and certainly well deserved! The Rowland Hall community is proud of you.

Athletics

Kendra Tomsic coaching volleyball
Nine individuals who have made outstanding contributions to interscholastic athletics were recently named recipients of the 2012 Distinguished Service Awards given by the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA).

 

Kendra Tomsic, long-time Rowland Hall director of athletics, was among the nine from across the United States honored at an awards banquet in San Antonio, Texas, during the 43rd annual National Athletic Directors’ Conference, conducted jointly by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) and the NIAAA.

 

The Distinguished Service Award is presented annually to individuals from within the NIAAA membership in recognition of their length of service, special accomplishments, and contributions to interscholastic athletics at the local, state, and national levels. Nominations are submitted by state athletic director associations, screened by the NIAAA Awards Committee, and selected by the NIAAA Board of Directors.

 

For the past 35 years, Kendra has been helping student athletes excel in interscholastic athletics. Following three years as the head volleyball, basketball, and softball coach at the College of Eastern Utah, she taught physical education and health at Grand County middle and high schools for 10 years, head coaching volleyball, basketball and softball as well, and winning one state volleyball championship and two softball state titles during her tenure in Moab. Kendra moved to the Salt Lake area in 1991, teaching and coaching for a year at Highland High School before being hired as the athletic director at Rowland Hall in 1992, a position she has held since that time. Kendra also serves as head volleyball and assistant softball coach for the Winged Lions.

 

Kendra has been very active in the state and national athletic director associations, serving as the first female President of the Utah Interscholastic Athletic Administrators’ Association in 2003–2004. She served on the UIAAA Board of Directors for four years, chaired the inaugural UIAAA Strategic Plan Committee, served as NIAAA liaison and certification director, and was a member of the Athletic Directors’ Advisory Council to the UHSAA for six years. The UIAAA named her Athletic Director of the Year and also honored her with the NIAAA State Award of Merit in 2007. That same year, the National Federation of State High School Associations selected her to receive the NFHS Citation, also a national award. She has been member of the NIAAA Strategic Planning Committee, as well as currently serving on the National Athletic Director’s Advisory Committee, which plans the annual NIAAA/NFHS Conference.

 

Congratulations, Kendra, on this prestigious honor!

Athletics

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