Representative of a growing trend, college volleyball teams have been finding recruits through the club circuit.
Essentially an extended season beyond the normal high-school season, club volleyball has become a necessity for high-school players pursuing a collegiate career.
“Club volleyball provides the opportunity for athletes to play beyond their regular school season,” said sophomore Kristen Etterbeek, who came out of the Michigan Volleyball Academy. “I didn’t start playing club until my 17s year, but it’s typical for most players on our team to have started at middle-school and lower high-school ages.”
Most school volleyball seasons are roughly three months long and consist of players from all four years of high school. However, club volleyball can run from four to eight months and is usually differentiated by age, giving players a chance to play more and compete against some of the best players in their year.
“Club volleyball is separate from high school and is usually more competitive,” junior Amanda Pacheco said. “In club, you played with girls your own age versus high school where you had four different ages on a team.”
The higher level of competition appears to be what the players are looking for in a club team.
Similar to the better-known Amateur Athletic Union basketball leagues that have become a launch pad for nearly all current elite college and NBA players, club volleyball leagues — many of which fall under the AAU umbrella — have become just as important for players wanting to get their names out.
“The purpose is obviously for individuals to develop as players, but also to help athletes market themselves to potentially become collegiate athletes,” Etterbeek said.
“My coaches at Penn saw me playing at a club tournament, and that’s why I’m here,” Pacheco said.
Despite noting that the college game is at a higher level than 18s club volleyball, sophomore Dani Shepherd said her club experience gave her what she needed to play Division I volleyball, a sentiment her teammates share.
“The work ethic that you develop as well as the dedication to the sport is very helpful and creates your expectations of how big of a role volleyball will have in your life during college,” said Shephard, who played for Sunshine Volleyball Club. Freshman outside hitter Emma White is also a Sunshine alum.
“Club volleyball was the only reason I was good enough to play collegiate volleyball,” Pacheco added.