The following article appreared in the Muskegon (Mich.) Chronicle on Oct. 7, 2008 and was written by Scott Brandenberg.
No one would blame Rachael Breinling for sitting back and admiring a stellar junior year. Breinling, a senior volleyball player at Army, was ranked in the Patriot League's top 10 in kills (6th), hitting percentage (.304; 6th) and blocks (0.97; 4th) to earn first-team all-league and academic all-league honors.
Breinling earned Army's female junior athlete of the year award after leading the Black Knights to a program-best .828 winning percentage with a 24-6 record.
Since then, however, Breinling's focus has been on moving forward. In more ways than one.
At the top of the immediate wish list for the former Fremont all-stater is an elusive Patriot League title. To win the league title, Army will have to dethrone American, a much taller team.
"I really think we have what it takes to win it this year," said Breinling, 21, the daughter of James and Barbara Breinling. "We've got a lot of players back and we all really want it."
So far, Breinling has her team in good position at 4-0 in league play, sharing top honors with American, heading to possibly a pair of showdowns Oct. 24 in Washington D.C. and the regular-season finale at West Point on Nov. 15.
The Black Knights have quickness, tenacity, hunger and experience on their side, including Breinling and three other seniors.
"Rachael's just awesome," said Army coach Alma Kovaci. "She's got so much power and she continually tries to make herself better."
Breinling, who just competed in her 300th set at Army last weekend, is second on the team in kills (161), hitting percentage (330) and aces (16) and third in blocks (30).
The 6-1 middle hitter is enjoying her time on the court this year as one of several top hitting options.
"We've got so many weapons this year," said Breinling. "We're able to mix things up and keep the other team guessing and that's one of the reasons why I think we've got a good shot at the league title this year."
One of the more memorable times on the court for Breinling was Army's home match against No. 5 USC. The Trojans were too much for the Black Knights, sweeping them in three games, but it was an experience Breinling will never forget.
"It was amazing," she said. "All week leading up to the match the cadets were behind us and we got to play in the arena where usually only the basketball teams get to play.
"The Trojans took it to us, but it was great seeing all those people there cheering for us. We were able to show them that we could go up against a team like USC and that we won't back down."
Another part of Breinling's 2008 she won't soon forget is a trip to Spain.
Breinling went to Zaragoza along with four other cadets in the spring semester to study. The geography major showed her dedication to volleyball by joining a club team, the Coronitas, while overseas. The overall trip was a definite change of pace for Breinling.
"I got to experience life as a civilian for the first time in four years," said Breinling.
Even though she played volleyball in Spain, Breinling needed to spend extra time catching her skills back up to full speed. That didn't prove to be a problem.
"Rachael works so hard all the time," said Kovaci. "She's really grown into a great player and leader for us."
Breinling will graduate next spring. After that, she will branch off into either aviation or medical service.