During the quarantine period of 2020 many students had the opportunity to try new skills and hobbies, but for Tulevech, her free time gained her social media popularity and the chance to start her own small business.
“It really happened over quarantine when I was home and had nothing else to do so I was making Tiktoks here and there. Last March, about a year ago, my first video went viral and then it just blew up from there,” she said.
“I’m just like a normal person,” she added. “Everything you do on the Internet, people have something to say. It’s kind of been a process, but it’s also been good because it helps with my own personal confidence.”
Although she hasn’t yet gotten used to people in her town recognizing her from TikTok while walking on the street, Tulevech said that she has learned and grown a lot from this unique experience.
“It’s made me a lot more conscious of what I say and do at all times, and I’m more mindful of what I post on the internet,” she said. “It’s actually taught me a lot about independence, like with my merchandise line. I do that all my own, so I’ve actually learned some valuable skills in terms of doing things on my own and making a little business.”
The junior outside hitter and biology major from Morehead City, N.C. has also had an impressive athletic career and hopes to treat this modified spring season as a preview for what’s to come in her senior season in fall 2021.
“I really want us to prepare for our fall season. We’re kind of thinking of this season as a ‘pre-pre-season,’” Tulevech said. “Winning games is fun, but right now I think the team and I are focused on working on those skills and just getting better in general.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the team’s fall 2020 season was moved to this spring, and they had their season opener last weekend against Holy Cross. While they fell to the Crusaders in both games in the weekend series, Tulevech is just happy to be back to the game she loves.
“I’m really excited to be playing with our freshmen because when we returned to campus this semester, it was the first time we were able to play with them,” she explained. “We only had about two weeks to get ready for our first game, so that was a pretty short time period, but we’re all excited just to get in the gym and to get better this season.”
The team has had to deal with some significant challenges both on and off the volleyball court. Unfortunately, the pandemic has taken a toll on how their season will be played and on the way they are able to bond as a team.
“It’s been an adjustment having to wear masks, and adjusting to the COVID guidelines in general. We really can’t do any team things outside of practice and lift. We all used to get together and have team meals or we’d go do something off campus to bond, and we haven’t been able to do any of that,” Tulevech said. “We all feel really bad for our freshman team experience.
“That’s probably been one of the biggest things that kind of translates to the court; there’s not as much of a connection between all of us, so we’re still working on that. Volleyball is just such a mental sport, so it’s important to have strong connections with your teammates.”
Those strong connections are what led Tulevech toward Lafayette. Her mother played volleyball at Colgate, so when former coach Terri Dadio Campbell reached out to Grace after watching her play at a tournament, her mother encouraged her to visit the campus.
“I was looking for a school that’s more academically driven than athletically, because I know I’m not going to play volleyball after college,” Tulevech said. “I’m from North Carolina, so I wanted to go somewhere far from home. When I came to visit here, it was exactly what I wanted. It wasn’t too big, so I was going to be able to see people that I knew walking around every day.”
“When I came to visit, the team was so welcoming and nice,” she added. “As soon as I got here, I felt like they were my family and it was just one of those moments where I was like, this is where I need to go.”
Tulevech started volleyball at a young age and was a standout on her team at West Carteret High School, where she was a three-year letter winner and team captain her senior year.
She holds her high school’s program record in career kills with 859, and was named Coastal 3A Conference Player of the Year in 2016 and 2017. Additionally, Tulevech’s 0.482 hitting average in 2017 ranked fifth in North Carolina, and her 59% kill rate placed her sixth in the state.
Her academics were also impressive, as she ranked fifth in her entire class, received the school’s Character and Academic Achievement award all four years, and was a member of the National Honor Society.
Tulevech said she is likely pursuing a career in the clinical biology field after she graduates, and is considering graduate school. As for her influencer career, Tulevech plans to focus on school and volleyball for now.
Above all, Tulevech said she is thankful for her friends and teammates that have been there for her before and after her social media fame.
“I think my favorite thing is the connections and relationships with the people on my team. We have that feeling of family and a team culture. My teammates are my best friends, and I know I have those lifelong connections,” she added.
The women’s volleyball team is hopeful heading into a weekend series against Lehigh, starting tonight at 7 p.m.