A spring break visit to the University of Maryland left little doubt in Kelsey Wicinski's mind.
Wicinski, a junior libero at Geneva, offered the Terrapins' women's volleyball program her verbal commitment earlier this month, becoming the latest Wicinski to plan a college volleyball career.
"The campus is gorgeous and I loved the coaches," Wicinski said. "The team was just awesome. I felt like that was my place. I just had that feeling as soon as I left campus. I looked at my parents and I was like 'That's it.' "
Wicinski oozes volleyball pedigree. Her mother, Gina, played at Northern Illinois, where her oldest sister, Lauren, starred before transferring to Michigan State, where she also excelled. Another older sister, Jess Wicinski, currently plays at Quincy University.
Michigan State was among the schools Wicinski considered along with DePaul, Illinois, Iowa and East Tennessee State.
"I visited Michigan State, I loved the campus, but I don't know, that's Lauren's school," Wicinski said. "And it's nice to have my own kind of deal."
Maryland is shifting next year from the Atlantic Coast Conference to the Big Ten, which makes Wicinski's eventual move to the East Coast less daunting.
"I kind of wanted to get out of Illinois and get a new feel, have a new experience," Wicinski said. "It's far away but how I put it in my mind is it's not bad because we're going to be playing Illinois, Purdue. We used to be driving up to Michigan State every weekend, so I'll be able to see my parents. It won't be that bad."
The 5-foot-8 Wicinski said the Terrapins – led by new head coach Steve Aird – began recruiting her a few months ago after watching her play with Club Fusion at a tournament in Wisconsin Dells. She said Maryland's solid business school was an additional selling point.
With as much athletic history as the Wicinskis have, there is no shortage of connections – in this case, extending all the way to College Park, Md. The mother of current Terrapins libero Amy Dion was a high school teammate of Gina Wicinski's at Rolling Meadows.
As a junior at Geneva, Wicinski established program benchmarks for digs in a season (815) and single match (49) as Geneva won its first sectional championship.
Not surprisingly for the daughter of a football taskmaster – Rob Wicinski is Geneva's longtime coach – Kelsey Wicinski said strength training will be her major emphasis as she looks to build off her dynamite junior year.
"I'm just trying to get stronger," Wicinski said. "The stronger I am, the more I can take balls with my hands and I can dig harder balls, so when I get into college and am playing against these nationally ranked players, I'll be able to hold my own."
Having concluded her decorated career at Michigan State and then playing a stint of professional volleyball in Puerto Rico, Lauren Wicinski has her sights set on back-packing across Europe in the comings months, Kelsey Wicinski said.
Lauren has plenty of time to mull where her loyalties lie going forward when the Spartans and Terrapins tangle in conference play.
"We have not gotten to that point yet," Kelsey Wicinski said. "I'm hoping Maryland."