FREMONT – The 2015 season is big for the University of Nebraska-Omaha volleyball team, and the first commitment for the Mavericks in that freshman class is a player with huge upside.
Gessica Gdowski, a 6-foot junior outside hitter from Fremont, announced Tuesday that she will play for the Mavericks. Gdowski, who is currently playing for the River City Juniors 171s club team out of Omaha, is the first known member of the Omaha 2015 recruiting class and the third Nebraska high school player to commit to a Division I school from that class.
Gdowski helped guide Fremont to a 17-13 record during the 2013 high school volleyball season as the Tigers lost in the Class A-1 district final to Millard West. Gdowski also played a key roll in Fremont’s girls basketball team reaching the state tournament in March.
The 2015 season for Omaha will mark the first time that the Mavericks will be eligible for all regular season and tournament championships in the Summit League. It is also scheduled to be the first season of play in the school’s new arena being built near 67th & Center.
The excitement of being a part of a building program was just part of the reason Gdowski said she knew Omaha was the place to commit.
“I really like how the coaches communicate and connect with the players and I really like how they work and communicate with each other as a team,” Gdowski said. “When I talked with the other girls on the team, they all love (coach Rose Shires). She’s a great coach and a great person and I’m looking forward to connecting with her on both levels.”
Gdowski also remarked how she is looking forward to competing with some great teammates at UNO and against the teams from the highest level of competition. As an example, Omaha’s 2014 schedule includes non-conference matches with Iowa State and Tennessee, among others.
“(Coach Shires) told me she wants me to come in and compete and to be prepared for competition and develop into a go-to hitter,” Gdowski said. “She said she likes that I’m competitive and that I play with heart and passion.”
And now, Gdowski said, she is looking forward to being able to compete without the worry or stress of trying to find a college home.
“It really is a big sigh of relief,” she said. “Now I can just focus on getting better.”
Over the course of ten years I have done many recruiting seminars for clubs, high schools, and individuals seeking a college athletic scholarship. I have talked about a timeline of how to pursue this goal. Over these ten years, not
much has changed. Actually, there have been many more resources since I was recruited as a student-athlete myself. I have my timeline broken down into high school classes. Good luck!
This is the year you are hoping to make a team in high school to be with your friends. Maybe you have played club? Maybe you are going to? Maybe your family can’t afford it? Maybe you got cut? Maybe you are a three-sport athlete for your high school? If all of these questions at this time can be answered with a “yes, you still have a shot at playing in college.” I can tell you from experience (I was cut my freshman year in club) that anyone has a shot at playing. Your expectations will have to stay realistic and your parents will be a big help in this process.
Ok! Getting back to freshman year… Grades! Keep those grades up! It will be a long road ahead if you get behind in your freshman year. By your senior year, it could come down who has the better grades when a collegiate program is evaluating potential recruits. If two athletes are fairly equal in terms of volleyball ability and athletic potential, coaches have a tendency to choose the one with the better grades and study habits. It means far less headaches for the coach and possibly more academic scholarship money for you. Buckle down that first year in high school and keep your grades up.
Attend any camps at schools that you might like. Stay in shape. Stay out of trouble. Make a good impression on your coaches with how hard you work. They will help you later. Do not skip out on summer workouts or all the other important things necessary to make a positive impact on your teams and coaches.
If you have not done what was needed during your freshman year, this is the year you must get it done. If you have not made junior varsity, varsity, or even the top team, that is ok! Maybe you’re just not Husker material. Maybe the Olympic dream is gone. Consider yourself still mortal. What still is important? Grades. How are those going? Working out? Are you trying to better your performance? Are you a good teammate or are you already in trouble with poor decision-making?
Again, you want to have fun but what you have to remember is that you will be leaving mom and dad soon. Your college volleyball coach will not be that voice of reason telling you to shape up. They may once, but you are always replaceable–not indispensable. Camps are pretty important this year. Attend some in your area and at colleges you are interested in attending. That coach will see you and make sure they connect with you on their campus if you are a good prospect. A smart suggestion is to write that coach informing them that you are coming. I good idea may be a quick email introducing yourself above and beyond the camp registration. Yes, I said email them. No, I didn’t say mom and dad write, YOU WRITE! At this time in high school, you should write as many as 25-50 schools that could be on your radar. Get on the Internet. Look up ten dream schools, 30 schools you could see yourself going to, and maybe 20 other schools that are realistic in price, distance, etc.
This is a big number, but you will be surprised at how many you are going to cross off your list based on you not liking it, reality, or coaches not needing you. This must be done by you. Coaches are completely turned off by getting emails from parents who are always doing the work. Busy or not, you must find the time if you want the offer. Not all of these players will be Jordan Larson. Skip the recruiting services. You can save your money for a college visit. There isn’t a magic trick for those services to find you what you couldn’t do for yourself, and for free. If you do not have a video of a match (see Iowa Western’s article on how to put together a video) then get this done no later than the summer before your junior year.
Again, repeat freshman and sophomore years should you need to catch up. Two years and you are outta here! Where am I going? Some of you may have that list of 50 narrowed down to 5. Maybe you are still trying to make varsity. Your high school team is tough to make, but you play club still. Maybe you are a three-sport athlete and no one knows that you live in small town Nebraska. Then you need to market yourself more. Writing a personal email and not a form letter will go much further in your desire to play volleyball collegiately. Send video. Send the whole match! Write all the time. Attend that camp in the summer. If they personally invite you, that is a neon sign flashing at you that they want you! Find a way to get there.
There are big tests coming up. The ACT is around the corner and maybe you will need to take the SAT. Every point you get could mean more academic money, and maybe a better shot at making that program you wanted. Coaches do look at grades first to see if you will save them athletic money so they can get you, AND possibly another player. Be proud of those grades! At this time you may be getting letters from coaches. Write everyone back. Keep a box organized with who the top picks are on your list.
Do not forget to stay in contact with these programs. If you do not communicate or reply, coaches may choose another player who is not as much work. Maybe, at this point, you know your major? Now your list is narrowed down even further. Consider all schools that can help you reach your academic needs. See your counselor to register for both the NCAA and NAIA clearinghouses. Doing both will save lots of time should either be recruiting you. You never know! Do you want a 4-year school? What about a 2-year school? Maybe you’re hurt and will miss a year; this may limit your options. Be open and don’t give up on a school. Work hard to show them you’re serious.
Have you committed yet? Do you know where you are going? Have you done all the necessary things in your freshman through junior years? If not, catch up fast! Many have decided by now whether or not they want to play volleyball in college. Some may just want to go to school and do not want that time commitment collegiate volleyball demands. Many have said they want to play. There are so many positive aspects of this experience: a wonderful way to help pay for college, play a sport you love, travel, make friends that you may have for a lifetime, learn how to be a part of a team, learn how to prioritize and manage your time, and learn and develop leadership skills. These are just a few of the rewards of being a part of a collegiate volleyball program.
I can’t emphasize enough the importance of all the things that I have stated here. I have seen bad decisions cost people lifetime opportunities. On your visits be courteous and respectful. Take lots of visits to compare and contrast schools. Remember, you are the one being courted and interviewed. Just because you can hit in front of the 10-foot line, doesn’t mean you get to be a diva and automatically be considered an ideal fit for your dream program. Future college teammates will read that and cross you off before the coach can defend your talents.
Parents should be involved in the recruiting process but not be doing all of the work. Coaches will be developing a relationship with the parents as well as the athlete. Coaches want the support and understanding of the parents, but they also want to genuinely get to know who they are signing. When you do sign the letter of intent, make sure you continue to be that person the program wanted (even after the honeymoon period is over). The social media articles I read on yahoo are amazing and quite devastating on how many high school players are getting their offers pulled. One kid lost his player of the year award because he made an ill-advised comment on twitter. It’s not worth it. Just like adults, it can cost you your job.
The biggest advice I can give after signing is to do the workout that that college coach gives you to prepare for their upcoming season. Coming in out of shape, immensely sore during two a days, or even injured does not get you on the court or leave a good first impression. What makes you happy? Playing!!! Would you like to be miles away, hurt, sitting in a dorm because you didn’t work out? You got your dream job, now do what your boss says and keep your job.
Be proactive in your recruiting process. Communicate. Don’t wait for the schools on your list to come to you. We want to get to know the people who may potentially be a part of our program. Good luck!
Trish Siedlik will enter her ninth season at the helm of the Bellevue University volleyball program in 2014 and has taken the Bruins to the NAIA National Tournament each of the past seven seasons. Siedlik has a 252-80 (.759) record in eight seasons at BU and a 377-101 (.789) career record in 12 seasons as a collegiate head coach. Her .789 career winning percentage also ranks fourth among active coaches in the NAIA. Along with her duties at BU, she was also named the Great Plains Tornados’ head coach for their inaugural season in 2013. The league, which is sanctioned by USA Volleyball, is comprised of former collegiate athletes. Prior to BU, Siedlik was the head coach at College of Saint Mary in Omaha from 2002-2005. During her four years, the Flames compiled a 124-21 record, including a conference record of 60-3, winning four MCAC regular season and tournament titles, two Region IV titles and three NAIA National Tournament appearances, making it to the Elite Eight in 2004. Siedlik played collegiate volleyball at CSM from 1995-98, was named the MCAC Player of the Year in 1997 while also earning honorable mention All-American honors.
LINCOLN – Sometimes it’s the little things that make a big difference when it comes to choosing a college. For 6-foot-1 Lincoln North Star sophomore middle Sarah Allick, it was actually five little ones that made the difference for her.
On Sunday, sitting in a local YMCA watching one of her five younger siblings play in a Spirit League game, Allick says she made the decision to become a Husker. It was then, Allick said, that she realized staying in Lincoln was the right choice for her.
“I’m from here. I get to play for my town, play for my state,” Allick said. “I get to see my sisters grow up. If I went somewhere else, I wouldn’t get to see that and they wouldn’t get to see me.”
Allick becomes the first Nebraska high school player in the class of 2016 to commit to a Division I school and she is the third member of the Huskers’ 2016 class. She joins outside hitter Molly Haggerty of Glen Ellyn, IL, and setter Hunter Atherton of Marion, OH, as 2016 Nebraska recruits.
This past fall, Allick helped lead North Star to a 22-10 record and to the Class A state tournament. North Star lost to Lincoln Southeast in the opening round, but Allick had six kills and eight blocks in the match. For the season, she finished with 210 kills and 128 blocks.
This spring, Allick’s stock has taken off about as quickly as she does from the court. Her quickness pin-to-pin as a blocker, combined with her effortless jumping ability had her receiving more fan mail than Nash Grier. After being named to the All-Tournament Team in the 16 Open Division while helping the Nebraska Juniors 161s to the JVA Showcase championship in February in Wisconsin, Allick began being courted by all the major programs in the Midwest.
Allick also was considering offers from Creighton, Iowa, UConn and a few others – with more offers rolling in almost daily – before pledging to the Huskers. At 6-foot-1, Allick has a jump-touch of 10-foot-3 ½. It’s fairly common to see Allick hanging from a basketball hoop to just stretch out her shoulders, or as she says, “just for fun.” Doctors also have told her that her growth plate is still open and she could easily stand 6-foot-3 by the time she starts college.
“Sarah’s athletic ability and her commitment to learn the game is what makes her who she is as a player. It is a testament to how she has developed so quickly over the last 1-2 years. Sarah definitely wants to be great so we talk a lot about how she can achieve greatness…be big in big moments and make people around you better in volleyball and in life. She does exactly that,” Nebraska Juniors 161 coach Ryan Gray said. “Her commitment to self-improvement and willingness to make the people around her better is what makes her a special player. I’m extremely proud of the person she is becoming.”
Not only does Allick have more room for physical growth, but she may also be just scratching the surface of her volleyball talent as well. This is only her second year of club volleyball and third year of organized volleyball of any sort. Allick gave the credit for her rapid development to the Nebraska Juniors program.
“I wouldn’t be anything, literally anything, without them. Everything I learned, I learned through them,” Allick said. “They literally took this rag-tag, lanky girl with an arm and they taught me technique. I’m completely a product of the Nebraska Juniors.”
Allick also gave credit to Bryce Hickerson, the Director of Player Development at VCNebraska as well as her high school coach Kristi Nelson-Hitz. It was Hickerson who, “dusted me off and got me ready to tryout for Nebraska Juniors with just a few lessons,” she said. And she credited North Star coach Nelson-Hitz with pushing her and refining her overall game.
Her game will now have a lot of eyes watching since she carries the label of Husker recruit, but the sophomore says she is ready to handle it.
“I’m fully ready for that. It kind of gives me a renewed purpose and I will use it to fire myself up,” Allick said. “I have a college to represent. I know that people are going to try their best to beat me that much more, but I’m fueled by competition.”