Kaylin Korte was just finishing up her age 13 season with the UNO Volleyball Club when she first heard from a collegiate volleyball program.
Within a year or two, Korte said she was getting 10 to 12 letters a week from colleges wanting her to join their volleyball programs. She heard from Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Florida State, Georgia and Oregon, among many others. Coaches were in attendance at virtually every club tournament in which she played.
“[Being recruited heavily is] a big accomplishment, especially since I was so young as it was happening, and so I would try to take it all in. It definitely felt good. Who wouldn’t want it at that age?” Korte said. “But then it was also very stressful.”
Still only a sophomore at Morris, Korte already has put an end to the recruiting process. She verbally committed to the University of Illinois and its volleyball team March 3.
A February visit to the Champaign-Urbana campus sealed the deal.
Before then, Korte always had seen herself going far away to college.
She also said that Illinois did not have a particularly special place in her heart until her visit.
“It wasn’t like it was my life’s goal to go there,” Korte said. “They scouted me at a tournament and talked to me in person. Everything about it all fit what I was looking for. I had visited Loyola before, and there was no comparing it to Loyola. I mean, Loyola is a beautiful school, but I saw myself somewhere bigger.”
A number of prominent Division I schools, including Florida State, Georgia, Michigan, Michigan State and Northwestern, showed at least some interest in Korte before she committed, she said.
Morris coach Jackie Litwiller said Korte definitely will be the first player in her five-year tenure, and the first Morris player she knows of, to play volleyball for a Big Ten Conference school.
“I was a little surprised by her early decision, but I knew that she was heavily into the process of looking at and visiting schools to see what her options were,” Litwiller said. “I personally have not had an underclassman receive this sort of attention from these types of programs. I can’t say for the coaches before me. It says a lot about her as a student, player and person.”
Although Korte had no idea she would arrive at such a decision when she visited Illinois, finding a fit quickly was a priority from the beginning of her search.
“I definitely knew that it was one of my goals to be committed early,” Korte said. “That’s a big accomplishment and a big weight off my chest. Other sophomores don’t have an opportunity like I do. So it definitely was in my mind when I visited the U of I.”
Korte’s older sister, Kendall, is a freshman and a volleyball player at D II Lander University.
Although Kendall’s college selection process was much different from Kaylin’s – Kendall was late to commit – the older sister did give some advice to the younger.
“[Kendall] definitely told me, or I learned from her, to ask questions. It sounds really cliché to say that, but you have to ask so many questions to make sure that it’s for you,” Kaylin said. “She would tell me, ‘Once you find that one college, you will automatically know that it’s for you.’”
Litwiller has high hopes for the 2014 Redskins, and Korte figures to be front and center in what they do. She led them in kills during a 19-win season in 2013.
“Kaylin is the type of player that plays all out all of the time, she loves the competition. A true competitor which I am hopeful will continue to grow and develop as she continues on,” Litwiller said.”
“I would like to see her at the top of the (Northern Illinois Big 12 East) conference when it comes to her hitting percentage as well as defensively. I want to see her continuing to work on her vertical and her strength. Her court awareness is already very good, but if she can continue to work on seeing and anticipating what the other team is doing, she will be unstoppable. She also has been working on different serving options that will add another element to her game, which is an overall asset to any program.”
Korte said that committing early will not change her approach to the game, nor will it lessen the pressure she feels to perform well.
In fact, she has specific improvements she hopes to make before she joins the Fighting Illini.
“I need to work on reading where I need to hit. That’s huge when you get to against top competition, where there are so many taller players and opponents,” Korte said. “I need to work on placing my hips better, and also my defense, the same thing – you need to read where the place you need to be is in the back row.”