For volleyball prospects, club involvements essential for reaching next level of competition

As the club volleyball season is much underway, teenage athletes are packing up to head to qualifiers all over the nation.

These massive tournaments host hundreds of teams from ages 12 to 18. Qualifiers are a hot spot for college recruiting.

Junior Taylor Lynch is a club volleyball participant who will be playing for Illinois State after her graduation next year. Lynch’s recruiting process started early, but she took her time to decide what school was best for her.

“My recruiting process started in club volleyball around my eighth grade year. Coaches who saw me play would give their card to my coach, and schools would send me questionnaires to fill out,” Lynch said. “Because there is no contact until your junior year, I was mostly gathering information about schools that I was interested in. I would attend their summer camps where they could work with me and see me play. I was a freshman when I did my first college visit, and I visited about five or six schools before committing.”

Being close to home and playing in the Missouri Valley Conference were some things Lynch had in mind before making her decision. “After several visits and attending camp, I knew Illinois State was the school for me because it was close enough to home so that my family could see me play. I grew up being familiar with the Missouri Valley Conference having lived in Cedar Falls my whole life. The programs offered and the school size were a very good fit for me. I was extremely impressed with the support that the student-athletes get both academic- and athletic-wise. I also experienced a strong connection with the coaching staff and future teammates,” Lynch said.

Lynch said she is very grateful for every opportunity she has received in her volleyball career so far and is looking forward to her future as a Redbird. She wouldn’t be where she is today without her club, coaches, teammates and dedication. “I have been very fortunate to play several years for Six Pack, an established club of 27 years in USA volleyball. The club’s reputation and coaches’ connections gained me the exposure at qualifiers that I never would have gotten if didn’t play club. I am honored to be accepting a full-ride scholarship and have lots of gratitude to my club, coaches and teammates who have made an impact on my volleyball career. Today most, if not all, college recruiting is done at these qualifiers. There can be as many as 200+ college coaches at these tournaments,” Lynch said.

Before thinking too much into the future, Lynch had some goals she has yet to achieve while she is in high school. “First and foremost, before I think ahead to my college career, my number one goal is for me and my teammates to bring home a state volleyball championship to Cedar Falls High School,” Lynch said.

After that, Lynch will be looking forward to her years at Illinois State. “Some things I’m looking forward too is being around my new teammates and working with the coaching staff to continue growing my game at the next level. I’m excited to be a Redbird, and I’m looking forward to embracing the traditions that come along with it,” Lynch said.

Junior Tayah Mahi practically had her decision made as a child in club volleyball. “I knew that I wanted to go to UNI because that’s where I’ve always wanted to go since I was a little girl,” Mahi said.

However, Mahi said that the recruiting process was difficult to understand at a young age. “The recruiting process is pretty stressful because you’re only 14-16, so it’s hard knowing you’re deciding your future so young,” Mahi said. “It’s also stressful if you love all of the colleges looking at you because it makes your decision super hard.”

Mahi visited around seven schools before she knew she had found the one, but ultimately she decided she wanted to be a Panther.  “I’m just looking forward to playing for my dad and continuing my career at the next level,” Mahi said.

Hoping to play collegiate volleyball like her sister Kaz, Peet freshman Kacia Brown also is looking for her opportunity to go big. Brown’s favorite school is the University of Texas, and it has been for a while.

“I look for places that are generally warm, but if not, it’s OK. I really like colleges based on the atmosphere and the team chemistry. I also look at coaching and what the team focuses on like I know that Kentucky focuses a lot on defense because my sister Kaz goes there,” Brown said.

Having gotten to experience her sister’s recruiting experience, Brown said she feels like she knows a lot about the process and feels her club team has really helped her prepare. Brown is anxious for the big tournaments and qualifiers planned for her season.

“When it’s time for a tournament, I get really anxious to play,” Brown said. “I don’t feel nervous because I know when I make a mistake that you have to just get over it and not let it affect you for the sake of the team,” Brown said.

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