From one Illini volleyball legend to another, Cristy Chapman Uhrig would like to thank Sue Nucci for opening her eyes to a world outside tiny Newton, Ill. (pop. 2,854).
Uhrig wouldn’t trade her experience growing up in the Jasper County village, “where the sense of community was very strong,” for anything. But “it was in the middle of nowhere and with having one high school for the whole county, sporting events were the main source of entertainment for everyone.
“I couldn’t wait to play in that ‘big’ high school gym where all the other high school girls played.
“It wasn’t until my sophomore year in high school that I even realized the capacity of college sports for women. I met Sue Nucci (four letters from 1991-94) at a volleyball event and had an instant connection because she was a middle and we wore the same number 15.
“I didn’t have huge dreams of playing anywhere but I knew it was an option.
“So to all those high school girls that I watched, I thank you for giving me that sense of community and pride to look forward to. Sue Nucci, I can never repay you for giving this smalltown girl the life I have now.
“For all the high school and college girls reading this, remember you never know the impact you are making every time you step on that court or field.”
The volleyball star then known as Cristy Chapman made the most of her abbreviated Illini career. Despite playing only two seasons after transferring in with her Louisville coach, Don Hardin, Chapman left as one of the program’s all-time greats — winner of the Dike Eddleman and Sandy Scholtens awards and earning first-team All-Big Ten honors as a senior.