Portage senior Kissell grateful for chance with SFU volleyball

Portage Area senior Emma Kissell prepares to serve during a 2019 contest. Photo by Bruce Walkovich.

PORTAGE— When it was time to make her decision about the future, the choice was obvious for Portage Area senior Emma Kissell.

With a passion for helping others, she immediately pinpointed St. Francis and its prestigious physician assistant program. Though academics were the priority, the chance to play Division I volleyball was a solid consolation prize.

Kissell is set to join the Red Flash as a walk-on this fall.

“When I was a young girl, I knew I wanted to go into the medical field. Having such an amazing physician assistant program up at SFU along with their excellent sports teams really drove me there,” said Kissell, who plans to cut her teeth on the volleyball court as a defensive specialist. “I got accepted into St. Francis’ physician assistant program and knew that was where my future was at. It was clear that if I wanted to continue my volleyball career, it would be here. I was very fortunate to be given the opportunity, by coach Sara, to play Division I volleyball.”

Kissell will play for coach Sara McMullen, who enters her fifth season as the Red Flash head coach. St. Francis went 3-25 last season, though it does boast a strong crop of underclassmen that includes local product Gabby Krug (Bishop Guilfoyle).

Drawing comparisons to the close-knit atmosphere at Portage, Kissell feels she will fit right in at SFU.

“What I like most about the volleyball program at SFU is the family atmosphere,” she said. “Not only is the family a team, but the whole university is. I watched the team play together throughout the season, and being able to witness how much (McMullen) cared about the players was truly amazing.

“Being a former Mustang, we were a family,” she continued. “I can already see that things will be no different up at SFU. I believe that I will fit extremely well with the program.”

In her time with Portage, Kissell played a vital part to her team’s success. She, along with her older sister, Olivia, helped guide the Lady Mustangs to the District 6 Class A playoffs a season ago. In her senior year as an outside hitter, Emma Kissell totaled 296 digs and 151 kills to rank amongst the top in the Laurel Mountain Sports area.

“I would definitely say my biggest strengths as a player are my hustle and determination,” she said. “I give everything I have every point, and I believe that is most important. Any free ball or hard spike, I am down and ready to pass that ball to target. Every player wants each play to run smoothly but hiccups are bound to happen. Having the ability to stay calm and not focus on the previous play is a huge strength that I possess.”

Her efforts were lauded by Portage coach Lauren Cordwell, who cited Kissell as a dedicated workhorse that filled any role that was needed.

“Emma is very deserving of the chance to continue her volleyball career,” Cordwell said. “Emma has always been a hard worker, and I know she will continue to do so at the college level. Her work ethic will fit in with what is needed to continue a successful college career. I am proud to have coached Emma and will miss her enthusiasm and leadership that she brought to the Portage volleyball program.”

In her time at Portage, Kissell has shined across multiple venues. She started on the girls basketball team this winter and was instrumental in helping the Lady Mustangs claim the triple crown in the Art Burkett Memorial Tournament, WestPAC championship and the first District 6 title in program history. She was also a three-year letterwinner in softball.

“I honestly could not be more grateful to have grown up a Mustang,” Kissell said. “From the team to the school and community, everyone is there for you. I learned the value of hard work and family. The teammates I had for the past four years did not only become my friends, but my sisters.

“This program meant everything to me. Without it, I wouldn’t have been given this incredible opportunity. I am extremely blessed and excited to continue my volleyball career at SFU this fall. That being said, I will never forget where my roots are. I will forever be a Mustang.”

She is the daughter of Jim and Deb Kissell, of Portage.

“I am extremely grateful to have been given this opportunity,” she said. “I will admit, I was very hesitant to play a college sport. I would like to say thank you to everyone, especially my family, who supported me throughout my high school career. My Mustang family will forever be a part of me, but I honestly could but be more excited to become a part of the Flash family.”