East Troy grad's a digger
Mykie Olsen is a digger. She finished as East Troy High School's all-time career leader with 1,527 digs. And she's still digging for the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee volleyball team.
The 5-foot-6-inch junior was an outside hitter before switching to libero her final two years with the Trojans, and that role as a defensive specialist suits her talents and personality well.
Olsen's switch helped her accumulate a lengthy list of accolades: She won letters and earned Rock Valley Conference honors all four years, was a three-year captain, made the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Wisconsin State Journal all-area squads twice while taking home All-State second team honors both times.
And the kinesiology major is well on her way for more praise after starting 24 matches as a freshman and reaching double digits in digs 10 times in 30 matches last year, nice accomplishments considering the huge jump in competition to the NCAA Division I level.
“East Troy's program prepared me so much for college play that it wasn't too much of a stressful transition,” Olsen said. “Granted, the fast Division I speed and level of constant high play was different from what I experienced during high school. However, the program taught me valuable lessons about what I can do to control the game and my way of thinking. It taught me what can be possible with dedication and work ethic.
“We had workouts year-round because we didn't view volleyball as just a sport to do in the fall,” she added. “We would have early morning workouts, recovery food and beverages after our workouts and practice and competitive and active practices. Experiencing this for four years before even getting to college made it feel like the normal thing to do and made the transition to Milwaukee that much easier on me.”
Olsen recorded six digs in her collegiate debut and contributed a season high of 11. Last year, she set a career mark with 16 during a win at Northern Kentucky.
She said the game comes much easier after a sluggish start.
“The hardest part to get acclimated to right away was the speed,” Olsen said. “I remember how shocked I was during the first week of my freshman preseason practices trying to receive serves and dig balls. It felt like by the time I blinked, the hit was already on the ground and the next serve was coming. That definitely was the toughest transition I had to make. But the game is easier to slow down because I've seen it now.
“But I'm constantly trying to improve myself physically and mentally,” Olsen added. “It is a constant process that doesn't allow room for part-time dedication. There are no guarantees about anything, whether that be playing time, a spot in the starting rotation, etc. So I just continue to push myself daily in practices, in weights and conditioning, in the classroom in trying to be the best me that I can be.”
And she needed to overcome hip surgery from February 2014 to keep doing just that.
“I suffered with pain, especially my senior year, and finally went and had it checked out,” Olsen said. “They found that I had a torn labrum and frayed cartilage in my left hip and extra bone that needed shaving on my femur head and hip socket on both hips. I elected to have an arthroscopic surgery on my left hip. I wasn't able to put any weight on my left leg for six weeks because of the bone shave, so I got real good at crutching around. I had six more weeks of no running, jumping or physical exercise. I did weeks of physical therapy and rehab and was healthy by the time I came to Milwaukee.”
Olsen also played softball as a freshman and lettered in track her next two years at ETHS. However, her athletic ticket to college was volleyball, which she played at the club level for the East Troy Heat, a program that Trojans' coach Jeremy Weis directs.
And East Troy's magnificent state title run and 44-0 finish her senior year provided the springboard for Olsen, an experience she never will forget.
“We had so much team chemistry and really bought in to the program and what we wanted our ultimate goal,” she said. “It didn't feel like I was playing with just teammates or classmates, it felt like I was playing with sisters.”
The Trojans won the prestigious West Bend Sprawl and Homestead Joust along their dominating journey to the WIAA Division 2 crown, knocking off several D-1 powerhouses and rallying from two sets down to defeat Kettle Moraine Lutheran in the sectional final.
“We had such a good vibe, both on and off the court, and because of that it felt natural and simply easy to suit up every day for practice and for games,” Olsen said. “Everyone had a specific role and we were all locked in to what that was in order to help the team. There wasn't any selfishness, cockiness, special treatment, etc., just a lot of hard work and determination from everyone.”
Olsen mastered those traits early in her athletic days, and her brother, Myles, provided plenty of motivation and inspiration. He earned four letters each in football, basketball and baseball for the Trojans and played hoops at Carthage College.
“Myles has been a huge influence on my athletic career,” she said. “He is two years older than me and is someone I have looked up to my entire life and athletic career. He is probably the most competitive, dedicated and hard-working person I've met, and he has taught me so much about those qualities. Seeing his journey through high school, winning conference titles, getting recruited for basketball, all gave me so much motivation to follow in his footsteps. He is a firm believer in hard work gets you everywhere in life, and he helped shift my way of thinking from a young age.”
The Olsen family — which includes father Mike and mother Michelle — does a lot of fishing together, while Mykie enjoys crafting, cooking and baking with her mom and playing with her cat, Mobey.
“Of course, I enjoy a good Netflix binge, but what college student doesn't?” she said. “I spend my summers in Milwaukee for school and workouts, and having Bradford Beach right down the road is so nice. I somehow end up playing beach volleyball almost every time I go, even if I plan to just hang out by the water. Guess I just can't get enough.”
So, to say that Olsen is driven doesn't quite cut it. However, she appears to have a strong grasp of putting things into perspective.
“What makes me tick is quite simply being myself,” she said. “I'm a pretty positive and happy person on and off the court. Being there for someone to lean on, vent to or give someone a piece of advice or something to make them happy or smile is what keeps me going in this crazy life. I surround myself with positivity and people who have the same mindset and determination as me, and that keeps me grounded and able to be my best self.
“To play a sport, you need to have a strong mental game and confidence, not cockiness, in yourself,” Olsen added. “I've developed that over the many years of playing and am able to lead others to that same mindset. I'm a competitive person, so any form of competition, whether in practice, games or my everyday life, gets me fired up.”