Division I prospect commits to Simpson


Submitted to The Simpsonian

Finch posing with Simpson attire after committing to continue playing volleyball with The Storm

by Liv Allen, ID Magazine Editor-in-Chief

It’s not everyday that a Division I prospect commits to a Division III school. However, Autumn Finch proves that it’s not atypical.  

Finch is finishing up her senior year at Marshalltown High School; she signed to Simpson to continue her academic and volleyball careers on Dec. 6, 2021.

The middle and outside hitter has received accolades like 5A IGCA West All-District and CMIL First Team-All Conference on top of leading her high school team in blocks, so it’s no surprise that Finch had numerous schools — at all levels — recruiting her for volleyball. One of the bigger, DI programs interested in Finch was Northern Illinois University (NIU). 

So, why choose Simpson College instead of NIU? For Finch, it was the welcoming community. 

“Other schools like Northern Illinois were good schools, but they weren’t as welcoming as Simpson,” Finch said. 

The focus on prioritizing and balancing academics with athletics also stood out to Finch — something that doesn’t always happen at the DI level. 

“I was talking to one of the assistant coaches here who had gone to a DI school, and she said it was almost like a job and that school wasn’t as prioritized,” Finch said. “I liked how Coach KK said he cares about academics as much as athletics.” 

Head Coach Kekailoa “KK” Palea said that academics and close-knit campus community are a focus for him and his coaching staff when recruiting. 

“Recruiting Autumn was a great team effort as far as our admissions and coaching staff. Simpson has a lot of great professors,” Palea said. “Another piece that I think is interesting for me — coaching and recruiting at all levels — is that these kids aren’t coming to Simpson just for volleyball. So we can kind of play off of that and see that their interest is more than just the sport. There are so many more things we can provide for them as a student versus having to sell the athletic program solely.” 

Though many high-profile athletes may feel pressure to go DI, Finch said the title did not matter to her. 

“All I really cared about was playing at the next level,” Finch said. “I didn’t care if it was DI, DII or DIII. Having the DI schools look at me was nice, but all I really care about is the school at the end of the day and I like that that’s what Simpson is all about.” 

Palea was encouraged to look at Finch from his wife, who coaches high school volleyball at Waukee. He shared that he didn’t initially think Finch would choose Simpson, but was excited when he found out after Finch made a surprise visit to campus. 

“I was aware of her level of play, so I’m like ‘Okay, we’re going to go after this kid’ to at least see, not necessarily thinking anything big because we knew there were DI schools looking at her,” Palea said. “When we started to actually get interest from her and more communication, we’re like, ‘Okay, maybe we have a shot.’ One day we saw her on campus and didn’t even know she was coming. We said, ‘Hey, what are you doing?’ and she responded, ‘Oh, I’m buying clothes, so I can sign.’ So it was pretty cool and her visit went really well.”

Finch is most excited about experiencing new team chemistry as she nears her first collegiate season. Aside from sports, she’s looking forward to living independently. 

“I would say I’m excited for the team chemistry. Coach has talked about how we have some new people coming and how we’re supposed to be really good so I’m excited to see how that plays out,” Finch said. “I’m honestly excited to see ho

Finch and her family during her college signing day on Dec. 6, 2021

w I do on my own also.”

Palea said that team chemistry and culture change is something the volleyball team has had to navigate since his Simpson debut in 2020. Despite that, he’s proud of his team’s leadership–helping them to compete at the highest level.

“There is a lot of culture change and just a lot of different small battles the team has faced, so w

e try to tell the girls that they have their volleyball family, then you have your outside family and social life,” Palea said. “Whenever they come to volleyball, we’re really focusing on gaining that trust from each other and being there for your teammates, and I think our team works really hard at doing that.”

Finch is planning to study in Simpson’s pre-physical therapy program.