After graduating from St. Ed’s a few weeks ago, Wake Forest-bound Kira Zudans is naturally a “little nervous” about exactly what mysteries lie ahead for her in Winston Salem, North Carolina. Nevertheless, she is reassured in the belief that her experiences as a Pirate student-athlete can serve as a buffer against those gnawing bouts of anxiety
The reasoning for that is solid. Zudans knows that engaging in team sports eased the transition to an entirely unfamiliar circumstance in her life once before.
“I was home-schooled for two years before enrolling at St. Edward’s in seventh grade,” Zudans recalled. “When I came here I knew only one person, besides my brothers, and I didn’t know her very well. But I found that everyone was so welcoming. By the end of the first week I was meeting with a bunch of girls and we were going to movies and doing other things like that.
“Those girls are my best friends to this day. It was crazy – the encouragement I received to get involved – and that included sports. I didn’t do any sports that first year until soccer season. Some of my friends were soccer players. Sports at such a small school like this are not just about sports in the athletic sense, they bring kids together socially. You see the person on your team sitting next to you in class, so that’s a great way to get involved, and stay involved.”
Her sporting career at St. Ed’s took off from there. She was on the middle school soccer team for two seasons before beginning a four-year varsity stint as a freshman. Rowing entered the picture immediately after soccer in seventh grade. That lasted through her sophomore year when St. Ed’s rowing program disbanded. In eighth grade she joined the volleyball program and played on the varsity as a junior and senior.
“I was always kind of nervous participating in sports, and I definitely had my little struggles here and there,” Zudans told us about her introduction to Pirate volleyball. “But by senior year I became very confident in my abilities. I was pretty good at it, so I would say that volleyball was my main sport here at school. I became a good blocker and outside hitter.”
“I was probably better at volleyball, but I found that soccer had more of a family atmosphere to it. Everyone was so close. We would hang out after practices and games and go to dinner and do things like that. The coaches were so welcoming and it was a lot of fun when everyone was together.”
Those soccer coaches were Carlos Pulido in middle school, and Jaclyn Pancotti-Mohr, Scott Mohr and Sam Borkovic with the varsity. And those four varsity seasons were loaded with melodrama on and off the field.
“When I was a freshman and sophomore our coach, Ms. Pancotti, would participate in practices and actually play with us on the field. She got married to Mr. Mohr sophomore year and was pregnant the next year. It was a lot different because she wasn’t on the field with us. She was still passionate, though, but we noticed a change of tone because she was about to become a mother.
“At that point Mr. Mohr was playing with us on the field. It brought us all even closer together because we were all just so obsessed with the idea of a little baby coming.”
Zudans and her senior teammates witnessed a nearly identical situation the following year when the Mohrs were expecting again. At that point the varsity soccer program was starting on a rebuilding process after several extremely successful seasons.
“My sophomore year we won the district championship. I remember running onto the field after we won the championship. Everyone was screaming and laughing and crying. That was a huge thing for me. Probably my best sports memory.”
While those high school experiences certainly stand out, nothing was more important to Zudans than her work with the Kenya Tutoring Program. She arrived early at school one day a week to Skype with a student in a high-stakes effort to aid that young person through a very challenging educational environment.
As for her own future at Wake Forest, Zudans sees a continuum connecting her with what she encountered upon arrival at St. Ed’s.
“I’ve always kind of struggled with what I really liked to study. I prefer an all-around spectrum. In the beginning I really liked English, then I went to science, and right now I really like math. But I think I want to go to college and study some kind of science because I hope to be a pediatrician.
“Really what I want to do is take a bunch of classes, because I’m not 100 percent sure that’s what I want to do. So I will see when I get there. The nice thing about Wake is that it’s a little like St. Edward’s. They are focused on getting students involved with everything at the school.
“The largest lecture class size is only about 40 people, but you also have a D-1 school with all the sports games to go to, and so many other activities. I love the campus and you have the town of Winston Salem, which is really cool.”