As far as girls volleyball head coach Jackie Litwiller can tell, history is being made by the Class of 2013 at Morris Community High School.
Four members of the class have committed to play college volleyball, which is believed to be a program record. Earlier signees Katie Chatten (Upper Iowa) and Kendall Korte (Lander) have been recently joined in committing by Marcella Toups, who signed with Brenau University in March, and Laney Torkelson, who signed April 17 with Jacksonville State University.
Torkelson to Jacksonville State
Torkelson says she is getting a full athletic scholarship to Jacksonville State, which is based in Jacksonville, Ala. and competes at the NCAA Division I level in the Ohio Valley Conference. The Gamecocks went 14-17 during the 2012 season.
Torkelson led Morris with 59 blocked kills and was second on the team with 159 kills last fall, earning her second team Morris Daily Herald honors. She was primarily a middle blocker.
“I know they’re looking to be really good. Each year they’re getting better,” Torkelson said of the Gamecocks. “They said I would be practicing to be a middle. They want me to be a middle, but if nothing else, they could use me as a right side. So I may end up as a middle/right side hitter.”
Litwiller says that Torkelson considered several schools, but that “something was different” when Jacksonville State contacted her.
“You could see it in her that she was excited about the possibility of continuing to play volleyball,” Litwiller said. “They loved what they saw on film and knew that her ability was something that they could utilize in their program. When discussing her front-row play, it sounded as if she was exactly the type of aggressive player they were looking for.”
Toups to Brenau
A right-side and outside hitter for the Redskins, Toups compiled 90 kills, 23 blocked kills, 16 aces and 131 digs as a senior.
She will travel even further from Morris than Torkelson to attend Brenau, a Gainesville, Ga.-based school that competes in volleyball at the NAIA level.
“When it came down to narrow my choices down, I visited the school and got to meet the girls on the team and toured the campus,” Toups said. “It felt like a really good fit. It’s a small campus. Even though it’s in a bigger city, it has a small, hometown feel to it.”
“She traveled to the school and fell in love with the campus as well as the current players,” Litwiller said of Toups. “She was so excited when she returned, you could see this was a great match for her.”
Toups says that when her senior year began, she was not planning to play college volleyball.
After regionals, I was sitting at home and thinking to myself, ‘I don’t want to be doing this when I could be doing what I love,’” Toups said. “I got off to kind of a late start, but I decided, “Let’s try it anyway. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.’”
A few factors helped sell Toups on Brenau. She is receiving an athletic and academic scholarship which will cover the majority of her costs. The school is known for its strong nursing program, which fits her planned major. And the Brenau volleyball coach, Jeff White, came to Morris multiple times to visit her, including for a signing ceremony the school held for her in March.
Four to continue
Litwiller says she has talked with MCHS Athletic Director George Dergo and one of the program’s former coaches. None of them can remember a volleyball class with four players that went on to play at the next level.
“These young women have worked so incredibly hard to get these opportunities,” Litwiller said. “It is wonderful to get to be a part of something so special. I am honored to have had the pleasure of coaching them and hope that they are an inspiration to the future Redskin volleyball players. I have always told them that if they want to play, then we will find a spot for them, and we did. It is so exciting.”
Chatten and Korte signed much earlier than Torkelson and Toups, and Toups says it would not have been surprising had they been the only two to play college volleyball.
“I mean, Katie has been playing club ball since sixth grade. Kendall has been playing club ball since ... I don’t even know how long. They’re both such good players and good people, I always knew they would play in college,” Toups said.
“Laney, I didn’t expect her to go for volleyball, but softball. She originally was going to go for softball. It was a shock to me when she changed her mind. We both went to Indy for a showcase in February. Some coaches came up to her, and she started saying maybe she was going to go. I’m so happy we’re all going on.”
To Torkelson, securing a record number of opportunities would only be fitting for the Class of 2013.
“I think my class is a very talented class,” Torkelson said. “It doesn’t surprise me that we got big scholarships. I think we’re the most talented group to come through.”