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From the Court to the Classroom: Sianna Iverson’s continued resilience and drive is taking her from PLU to Duke University

From the Court to the Classroom: Sianna Iverson’s continued resilience and drive is taking her from PLU to Duke University

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Sianna Iverson Senior Spotlight

Image: Sianna Iverson’s resilience and determination have led her from PLU to Duke University, where she will pursue her dream of becoming a physical therapist starting in the fall of 2024. (PLU / Sy Bean)

May 20, 2024
By Ava Edmonds
Marketing & Communication

Highly recruited as an outside hitter out of Chiawana High School, Sianna Iverson ‘24, a talented volleyball player, knew she found a home at PLU after a campus visit. 

“As soon as I visited, I knew it was going to be a great fit for me academically. I met the volleyball team, and it felt like a second home. I didn’t even end up applying to any other schools.”

When Iverson arrived on campus, she declared her major to be kinesiology, with a concentration in Pre-Physical Therapy and a minor in Exercise and Sports Psychology.

In Iverson’s experience as a patient in physical therapy and her high school sports medicine classes informed her interest in kinesiology and sports medicine. 

“I first went to physical therapy for a sports-related injury when I was 11. I thought it was super cool, and I really loved my physical therapist. Since then, I decided I wanted to be a physical therapist, even though, at the time, I had no idea what that meant.”

Iverson’s first collegiate campaign on the volleyball court for the Lutes during the 2021 spring COVID season, when she recorded 17 kills against cross-town rival, the University of Puget Sound. 

However, at the start of Iverson’s sophomore year, her aspiration to play volleyball in the NCAA shifted from the court to the sidelines when she suffered a knee injury.

“I was out most of my sophomore year and had my first knee surgery after the season ended. By the time senior year came around, I realized I needed to get another surgery. None of this was originally a part of my plan, but it definitely opened my eyes to learning how much more is involved in the recovery and rehab process.”

Rather than participating in drills with the team, she focused on learning about and training her mental resilience as she rehabilitated her knee. She then transitioned her role to student support staff for the volleyball team.

“Throughout all of the injuries, she continued to rehab so that she could possibly return to action, and for that, I was in awe at her toughness and persistence,” said PLU Volleyball Coach Kevin Aoki.

Iverson explained, “Before these injuries, sports psychology wasn’t really something I had ever considered. The psychological aspect of exercise and sports is often overlooked but is so important. Learning the different mental skills in my PLU classes greatly impacted my recovery. I also want to incorporate these lessons when working with athletes as a physical therapist in the future.”

The PLU Volleyball team celebrate winning the Northwest Conference Championship during their 2023 season.

In addition to her persistence and learning in the training room and classroom, Iverson relentlessly pursued accolades and resume boosters while on campus, including the 2023 American Kinesiology Association PLU Undergraduate Scholar of the Year Award recipient, NCAA Women’s Enhancement Graduate Scholarship recipient, Student-Athlete Advisory Committee representative, Vice President of the Kinesiology of the Future Club, Kinesiology tutor, and has become a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. Most recently, she was awarded the PLU Department of Kinesiology Pre-Physical Therapy Outstanding Graduate for the 2023-2024 school year.

Iverson on campus at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.

“Even with Sianna’s busy schedule of class work, volleyball, and volunteer work, she worked as the kinesiology tutor and was the Vice President of the Kinesiology of the Future Club. I personally do not know how she was able to do all that she was able to do during her time at PLU and perform as well as she did,” said PLU Professor Charlie Katica.

This lengthy resume also impressed the admission office at Duke University, where Iverson applied to graduate school in hopes of continuing her dream of becoming a physical therapist.

“Duke has a great reputation for its academics, connections, and research. Their whole medical program is super renowned, so it was at the top of my list. When I found out I was accepted, I canceled my other interviews and declined the other schools I had been accepted to. I knew this was what I wanted to do.”

Iverson’s attitude to never count her out of a race has provided countless opportunities for her in the world of athletics, including starting her next chapter at Duke. Iverson’s advice to incoming first-year students:

“One thing that was mentioned to me once was ‘to make other people say no to you.’ Never count yourself out of an opportunity. If you don’t think you can get a job, an internship, or a scholarship, apply anyway and make them say no to you, but don’t say no for them. I thought about this when applying to Duke and told myself the worst thing they can do is just not accept me.”

Reflecting on her time at PLU, Iverson’s dream big attitude and self-assurance have opened doors to numerous opportunities as she continued to push herself to try her best in every class, internship and experience.

“I just discovered that I’m more capable than I thought I was.”

Sianna Iverson NCAA Forum
Iverson attending the 2023 NCAA Career in Sports Forum in Indianapolis, Indiana.
The PLU Volleyball team celebrating together at the 2024 PLU Athletics Awards Show, The Luteys.
Iverson outside of the Kinesiology lab in Olson Gymnasium.