HATTIESBURG, Miss. -- Makareta Rademakers has been everything a student-athlete can be. The three-time C-USA Academic Medalist and Southern Miss Dean's List member has taken internships out of town and developed into a starter this senior season for the first time of her career.
And she did it all a mere 8,000 miles away from her home of Christchurch, New Zealand.
"Southern Miss checked all the boxes for me," Rademakers said. "Academics, a good volleyball team and the community it provided. It can be hard to judge via Skype sessions, but everyone seemed so lovely and warm to me. Compared to other schools, Southern Miss went out of its way to make me feel at home and that is hard when you are so far away from home. I'm very happy with my decision."
Rademakers unashamedly admitted she did not have the most accurate expectation of America, if even one at all.
"I didn't," she said. "It sounds weird, but my vision of America was only through movies. Just the high school jock and cheerleader and all that stuff. Obviously that's not what it is at all."
A support system is vital for anyone in such a new place, and Rademakers quickly found that with fellow seniors Chanel Joyce and Stephany Purdue as soon as she came to Hattiesburg.
"I never thought I'd get along with two such great girls. They were super funny and welcoming and we bonded straight away."
As her career progressed, the roles changed for her. It has been in good time as well, with Southern Miss improving its win total from 17 to 20 to 24 each of those first three years. The Golden Eagles now sit at 18-7 with four regular season matches and a clinched trip to Houston for the C-USA Championships remaining. Rademakers became a full-time starter this year for the first time.
"It was more of a change in position," she said. "That's what got me going and my confidence was so much higher. I'm in this new role that I really love. I get to set and there are some rotations where they'll sub Kelsey [Chambers] in and I'll get to set some balls. I really think it's been my position change where I've been able to relish in my new job."
Head coach Amanda Berkley also shared a philosophy that would be quite apparent to Golden Eagle volleyball fans.
"I think she's always had a great attitude and energy on the court," she said. "It may not be setting, but I wanted her to set and take the second ball. She deserves to be on the court. She brings a lot to the team and can help with just energy alone and having a lot of fun out there."
Joyce has noticed as well that Rademakers' positivity is an inherent trait. She mentioned that her aunt and Rademakers' mother, who has the same energy level as Makareta, have gotten pretty close and go out together too when both in town visiting.
"Maka has always had that personality," Joyce said. "She loves volleyball and will do whatever she can to be on the court. Over the years she has talked more and more on and off the court and that brings out the positive energy that gets everyone going."
Rademakers' vivacious personality and will to get along with others makes it seem like perfect sense as to why she has ambitions to get into the sports video industry. It all began her last year of high school.
"I took this media studies class as kind of a filler, and I loved it," she said. "I then thought 'what two things do I love,' sports and media. So why not combine the two and see where I can go from there?
"I've been fortunate to take advantage of the opportunities given to me, so working for the Biloxi Shuckers on a summer internship and being with [Southern Miss Assistant AD for Sports Technology] Kaylie Shannon on her sports video team, I've been using this opportunity to the best of my ability," Rademakers said.
Her resume is also a metaphor to how motivated and open-minded she is to the future opportunities she has created for herself.
"I don't want to pigeonhole myself to one thing," Rademakers said. "I want to do everything. Just being involved in sports is what I love. I'm also a huge rugby fan. I could see myself here in America or back home with sports or TV. I genuinely have no idea where I'll be at this time next year."
Wherever Maka goes next, she will have more than enough people on her side. No. 18 will be joined at Sunday's Senior Day by her family that arrived into town over the weekend. It is her father's first time visiting her in America.
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