In Pittsburgh, Louisville, Madison and Lincoln, and in all other places that have ties to the universities or volleyball programs there, fans by the thousands are buzzing about their teams making it to the NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship, which gets underway with semifinal matches tomorrow in Columbus, Ohio.
For a select few, however, their fandom might be just a little bit stronger. They are high school seniors recruited to these programs. Soon, they’ll be wearing the school colors and contributing on the court; but, for now, they’re watching the journey of their chosen school with keen interest and … of course … excitement.
We spoke to one incoming recruit from each school to talk about the final-four journey of their school from their unique perspective.
DILLYN GRIFFIN, PITTSBURGH
DS/libero, Santa Margarita Catholic (Rancho Santa Margarita, California)
When Griffin committed to Pitt back in August, the Panthers had yet to make a national semifinal in volleyball in program history. But she was a believer.
“Talking to the coaches, they mentioned that this team made the Elite 8 last year, the Sweet Sixteen the year before that; the program was only going uphill,” she said. “It’s been awesome to watch how the coaches are turning the program around.”
Griffin said that she wanted to come east for college to experience the four seasons, but having a second family was important to her.
“When I took college trips over the summer, Pitt stood out to me,” she explained. “I saw how the kids bonded and how the coaches made sure the program had a family feel. That was the No. 1 thing. They’re going to be my family for the next four years.”
Griffin said that following Pitt’s journey to the Final Four has been a rush, especially with fellow Californian Rachel Fairbanks, someone she’s played against in high school; contributing as a freshman starter.
“I watched all the games if I didn’t have a game myself, I text the coaches after every game and talk to Rachel and Eliana Posada.”
Griffin will be in Columbus tomorrow to cheer on the Panthers.
“I’m missing a couple of finals but it’s worth it,” she explained. “I’m excited for them but also a little nervous.”
Griffin won’t be joining her new team until early in June — she’s hopeful to travel with them on a binding/playing trip to Europe in mid-April — but she dreams of continuing the legacy established by this team.
“I hope over the next four years that we can make it again, too.”
ELLA WROBEL, WISCONSIN
OH, Plainfield North (Plainfield, Illinois) Wrobel will be hitting the road, heading five hours east to Columbus with Class of 2023 recruit Saige Damrow to cheer on the Badgers, the team she’ll be joining in June.
“I’m a little biased, but I think they have a really great shot at winning this tournament,” she opined. “They are such a strong team physically and the bond they have on the court is unreal. It’ll be fun to watch them and know I’ll be in similar shoes next year.”
One of the top attackers in the nation since before she was a high school freshman, Wrobel overcame her chronic indecisiveness to commit to the Badgers in June of 2020.
“I was going to wait longer, but I went to camp the year before and bonded with kids I was going to play with in the future,” she explained. “I just knew this is where I belonged.”
Wrobel, how had most of the B1G clamoring for her services, felt an even stronger connection on her official visit this past summer.
“I fell more in love with the people and the environment,” she said. “I watched a match and got emotional sitting in the stands in the Fieldhouse. It’s insane how much energy there was.”
Wrobel said she’s watched her future team closely all season long — texting assistant coach Brittany Dildine and sophomore setter MJ Hammill after every match — and is impressed by how much they’ve improved.
“Obviously you can tell how hard they’ve worked all season,” she said. “The energy on their team has sparked them for sure.”
Wrobel has no plans for Columbus other than to support her future team.
“They are on a mission,” she explained. “I told them I was coming, but am expecting only a little wave or hug. This is a business trip.”
MAISIE BOESIGER, NEBRASKA
DS/libero, Norris (Nebraska) Growing up in Nebraska, the Cornhuskers were naturally Boesiger’s favorite team. So when the undersized setter was offered the opportunity to play defense at the national powerhouse just 30 minutes down the road, she jumped at the chance.
“I love the volleyball atmosphere at Nebraska and how competitive they are,” said Boesiger, who turned down opportunities at Louisville and San Diego. “It came down to the closeness of my family and wanting to stay in Nebraska.”
Asked whether she was going to be in Columbus tomorrow, Boesiger exclaimed, “I wish! But it’s finals week. We’re having a watch party instead. We are all really excited.”
“I have always watched and followed Nebraska volleyball, but it’s even more meaningful this year because I know I’ll be there in a month,” she added.
Boesiger, whose last day of high school is Tuesday, said that she made the decision to forego her final semester of high school and final year at Premier Nebraska to join the Cornhuskers early.
“I talked to girls on the team who graduated early,” she explained. “The way they put it is, ‘Do you want to train six weeks or six months before the season?’”
Boesiger lived Nebraska volleyball all year, going to every game she could live and watching the others on TV.
“There’s no place like Nebraska volleyball,” she said.
Boesiger watched while the team went through a rough patch earlier in the season and watched during this push to the Final Four.
“It’s so exciting to watch them play this well,” she said. “They have a great tradition. Going to the Final Four is not new for this team, but I know how much hard work goes into it.”
Boesiger said that playing in a national semifinal is definitely a dream she has.
“It’s been amazing watching these girls do it,” she added. “I play in the same club as Lindsay Krause and against her in high school. It’s been so much fun watching her get to the Final Four.”
Boesiger knows that making it to the Final Four is an expectation at Nebraska and is something she hopes to achieve during her time there.
“I won’t say I expect to go, because you have to work really hard,” she said. “But it’s definitely a goal and dream of mine.”
MB, Academy of the Holy Cross (Kensington, Maryland) Sherman committed to Louisville in October, 2020, two months before the Cardinals reached the regional semifinals for the second consecutive year. True, Louisville had never made the national semifinals, but Sherman knew that it was a strong team getting better and better.
“I wanted to go to a school with good volleyball and a good business school,” she said. “I knew they had a strong team and I was hoping they’d go farther than the last NCAA tournament. They’ve been crushing it this season and definitely deserve it.”
Sherman said that Louisville was the first team to show interest in her when she was very young in the game. She picked the Cardinals because of how nice everyone was and how consistently they communicated their interest in her.
“I knew this is where I wanted to go; I felt a good connection,” she said.
Sherman said that the Ville making the national semis a year before she’s set to enroll makes her feel happy for her choice.
“I feel like when I go there we’ll be in a good position no matter how we end up this year,” she explained. “After this year, a bunch of people will be following us.”
Sherman followed Louisville’s journey this fall by watching every match and following up every win with texts to coaches, offering congratulations, encouragement and support. Her fellow recruits also communicated one with the other, but Sherman said she left the players pretty much alone. “I don’t want to be bugging them all the time.”
Now that the Final Four goal has been met, Sherman hopes that it is a perennial expectation within the program.
“If we keep working…what a cool experience it would be to go through,” she said. “I feel like we have a good chance with a strong team returning and the recruits coming in.”
As excited as Sherman is to watch her future team tomorrow, she admits to being nervous for the players.
“I know this is their first time,” she said. “I hope they are prepared because Wisconsin is a really old team and has been there many times. I hope Louisville is ready for that and comes in with the right mindset.”