Junior Athletes Take their Game to the Next Level

Sports Feature Story by J1 Reporter Lily Heim


Junior Sarah Wing attacks the ball against Papillion LaVista. photo courtesy of Amy Wing.

As soon as junior year hits, reality sets in. It is officially time to start thinking about college. The last two years of high school are filled with college visits, ACT classes, and applications. For juniors Sarah Wing and Megan Valenzuela, their future is already planned and the daunting question of “WHERE?” has been decided.

The Marian Volleyball team is heavy with college commits, Wing being one of them. Wing made the decision last summer, right before the start of her junior year, to play Division I volleyball for the Iowa Hawkeyes. After considering numerous schools, including Arkansas, Mississippi State, Air Force Academy, and Iowa State, Wing made her decision as soon as she stepped on to the Hawkeye campus. “Once I was on campus and in their facilities interacting with the coaching staff, I knew it [Iowa] was for me.”

Wing was not even considering Iowa at the beginning of her recruiting process, but as soon as she was in contact with the coaches, all of the other schools were out of the question. Wing was offered a position on the team after playing at a three day camp hosted by Iowa. In the meeting, the coach gave her one day to decide if Iowa was the place for her. Deciding your future in less than 24 hours, that’s something most juniors and seniors would never dream of. Wing knew this was where she wanted to spend the next four years of her life.

Megan Valenzuela has a similar story, only hers revolves around soccer. Soccer is a competitive sport to play, especially at the college level. The probability of girl soccer players that go on to play Division I soccer is roughly 2 percent. Valenzuela proved herself to be in that 2 percent by being a key player on the 2016 State Championship team. Valenzuela committed to Drake University the summer before her junior year of high school. She immediately connected with the coaches and the team, and realized Drake was the place for her. “There were quite a few other colleges contacting me, but nothing compared quite as highly as Drake for me.” After her visit, she had no doubt in her mind that Drake was her dream school.

The recruiting process can be a very stressful, confusing, and long process. There are numerous NCAA rules that prohibit coaches from contacting you directly until Sept. 1 of your junior year of high school, this puts all of the pressure on the athlete. In order to make the right decision, the athlete must build a relationship with the coaching staff and get to know them. They are able to call the coaches and can also go on unofficial visits.

Wing and Valenzuela are well aware of how stressful the whole process can be. Valenzuela said she feels “Relieved and stress free” now that the process is over for her. Wing felt a similar feeling after committing. “The recruiting process is a lot of work and time commitment, so once I committed, it was such a relief. I now can finally focus on the team I am on instead of trying to juggle volleyball and recruiting.” This is the thought process of many athletes either committed or still on their journey deciding where the best fit for them is. The time, energy and dedication these athletes put into their sport is what takes them to the next level.

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