SENECA — In some ways, Ferris State University is a perfect fit for Seneca High School's Aspen Stuedemann to continue her athletic and academic careers.
It must be a fit — it is the only school she visited. FSU is giving Stuedemann, who signed a national letter of intent in November, a partial scholarship. She will play volleyball and high jump for the track and field team while studying English literature and secondary education.
But in at least one sense, FSU cannot offer Stuedemann what she once sought.
"I guess I never thought I would go to school in Michigan," Stuedemann said. "I didn't want to go to school in Illinois, but that's mostly because of the weather. My original plan was to go south. But I guess plans change."
Those plans began to change early this year during Stuedemann's club season with the Illinois Valley Volley Power. One of the FSU coaches saw Stuedemann play at a tournament and contacted her IVVP coach. She started talking over the phone with an FSU assistant, and in June, she visited the Big Rapids, Mich. campus.
"I talked with the coach (Tia Brandel-Wilhelm) and got to hang out with some of the players," Stuedemann said. "I felt very welcome ... they told me exactly what they were going to be able to offer. I wanted to verbal that day, but I decided to let myself think about it and see how it all plays out ... I called (Brandel-Wilhelm) the next day and verbaled. I knew right then that that's where I wanted to go."
At the time, Stuedemann was wearing a cast on her left arm. She broke multiple bones during a sectional track meet in the spring, which prevented her from being able to play club ball — or participate in any camps at FSU — this summer.
"I'm just happy I was given this opportunity even with a cast on my arm," she said.
Stuedemann was recruited as a middle blocker, which is where she played through her junior year at SHS. Partially because of the arm injury, she spent much of her senior year at outside hitter and tallied 249 kills and 54 blocks for the sectional finalist Lady Irish.
While Stuedemann says she prefers playing on the outside, she is willing to play wherever Brandel-Wilhelm wants her at FSU. She is currently back in the middle for IVVP, though she has been rotating all the way around and playing all six positions lately.
To SHS coach Karen Raney, Stuedemann's club experience has helped prepare her for the jump in levels she will face going from prep volleyball to FSU.
"She sees that same heightened competition with her club team. ... The blocking will be better and hitting will be tougher, but she is capable of taking it up a notch," Raney said.
"I'm excited for Aspen. Her potential — I don't want to say it hasn't been tapped, but she still has the opportunity to grow. We won't know what kind of a player she can be until she plays at college and shows us, but she has great talent, and she's willing to work hard and learn."
Though Stuedemann says she was primarily looking to play volleyball at the next level, FSU does offer her a bonus in the chance to join coach coach Steve Picucci's track team.
"I think I'm going to high jump," Stuedemann said. "They're primarily a distance school, so they don't have really have sprint coaches, but I can jump. A lot of schools don't want you doing two sports, but they're opposite seasons and it should work. I talked to the coach and he sounded excited and open to it."