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Prep Zone

Schwab: Area volleyball recruits eager to show their skills

A trio of Tri-Cities girls volleyball players who play club with Fusion South made college commitments this month and, for at least two of the three, new scenery should come with the opportunity for increased playing time.

The local girls volleyball scene is so highly competitive that smaller colleges often present a better chance for playing time than girls’ high school teams, and that could be the case for St. Charles North senior Shaelynn Miller and Geneva senior Hailee Hilmer.

Miller still was dealing with a strained rotator cuff early in North’s season, which didn’t help the 6-foot-1 middle hitter’s prospects of cracking North’s rotation.

She played sparingly during the fall but hopes for a larger role at Coker College, a Division II program in South Carolina.

Miller committed to Coker last week.

“The majority of the season I rode the bench, and eventually, I got [medically] cleared, but the team was doing very well, and the coach said to me ‘You have talent, but the team is doing good the way it is, that we don’t want to change it,’ and I understood that,” Miller said. “By all means, my senior year season wasn’t easy at all. I might not have grown, playing wise, skill-wise, but my high school season has definitely taught me mental toughness and how to be a good teammate no matter what, regardless of circumstances, to just be positive and supportive, to just kind of take thing as they are.”

Miller said she was focusing on colleges in the South and also considered Coastal Carolina. But Miller wouldn’t have been able to play volleyball for Coastal Carolina, and one of her club teammates, Wheaton Warrenville South’s Brooke Closset, also has committed to Coker.

“I think the biggest thing for me is my high school season by all means was not easy, and out of eight seniors, only two of us are continuing [to play in college] in me and Taylor Krage, so the biggest thing for me committing somewhere and going on to play is I want to show my coaches and teammates who didn’t really get to see me play this season that I can play, I’m good enough to play and I love the game, regardless of anything that’s happened,” Miller said.

Hilmer, who committed to Loras College earlier this month, can relate.

Most of her contributions during high school season came in practice as the libero/defensive specialist did not crack Geneva’s usual rotation. The Vikings had a young, but highly talented, team that earned the program’s first sectional title.

“I was really OK with it because I really wanted to have our program really excel for next year, and I know I was one of three seniors, so it was kind of a building year, and I completely understood it,” Hilmer said. “I was just happy to get all of the reps I was able to because that’s what my focus was.”

Hilmer chose Loras – located in Dubuque, Iowa, – over Hope College (Mich.). Her older sister, Mackenzie, is scheduled to graduate from Loras just before she begins her college career, but Hailee said some of the younger Loras students she met through her big sister will still be around.

Hilmer plans to study public relations at Loras, and anticipates chances for playing time, either through Loras’ varsity or JV teams.

“They were really helpful with me, with supporting me with [not seeing much playing time in high school], keeping my confidence up and saying reasons I needed to stay positive,” Hilmer said. “That was a big part, too. They really make you feel at home.”

Another Fusion South product, St. Charles East senior Dana Voltolina, selected Carroll University (Wis.) within the past week. A left-handed right-side/outside hitter, Voltolina was among the main offensive threats for a Saints team that finished 31-7.

Miller and Voltolina are teammates on Fusion South’s 18 Red team, while Hilmer plays for Fusion South’s 18 Silver team.

Fitzgerald takes over at St. Francis: St. Francis has named Mike Fitzgerald its new football coach. Fitzgerald previously was offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Marist and previously played and coached at Lake Forest College.

Fitzgerald replaces veteran Spartans coach Greg Purnell, who stepped down after the 2013 season.

• Jay Schwab is sports editor of the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5382 or

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