Coach McLeay leads team of college volleyball recruits

by Grace Sall

Upon entering the East Gym of Marian for a home volleyball game on a Wednesday night, the sound of squeaking shoes on hardwood floor and competitive jeering fills your ears. Coaches give a pep talk to the varsity team, including Emily Bressman. The game begins in 30 minutes, when Bressman and her teammates will leave it all on the court for the competitive ambition of winning.

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Crusader crunch time Emily Bressman ‘19 stands with coach Amy McLeay at a tournament at Bellevue West. They played Western Christian and won all three matches. Photo courtesy of Amy Wing.

Until the final buzzer, nothing else matters except ensuring the ball does not land on their side of the court, and whose numbers on the blue scoreboard are higher. To a casual observer, this scene is just another high school volleyball team. But after Bressman and the other 13 players leave the confines of the East Gym, they return home to a different type of pressure: committing to college.

Deciding on a college generally doesn’t come until senior year. But as some ath- letes know, this pressure creeps up much sooner.

For Bressman, colleges were only allowed to contact her about her volleyball future beginning junior year. Until that point, the only contact that was allowed had to be initiated by Bressman or her coaches.

On Aug. 30, 13 days after school started, Bressman announced that she had committed to Creighton University. “It was home,” she said.

Initially, it would seem that Bressman had to brave the waters of recruitment alone. However, she said her coach Mrs. Amy McLeay played a big role in helping make her decision, as was the same for other girls on the team who had already gone through the recruitment process.

As the girls’ coach, McLeay helps with daily practices, offers words of wisdom,

dispels school burdens brought on the court and navigates the overall busy lives of the teenage girls. In addition, she helps them with a tough choice plaguing many students: where to go to college.

Screen Shot 2017-10-06 at 2.17.32 PMAs high school athletes, the girls have to make the decision about whether they want to continue playing after graduation. McLeay’s role is helping the girls once they’ve decided to pursue their passion on the collegiate level. She has them make a list of their dream schools, trying to take into account how close the schools are, as well as which schools have their preferred major.

But these decisions are hard for any 18-year-old, let alone as early as freshman year.

“I try to be level-headed and help them appreciate the opportunity that presents itself to the girls,” McLeay said.

Once her player has decided what college she would like to play for, McLeay contacts the schools’ coaches via email or phone to tell them about what the student has to offer. Up until junior year, this is how the recruitment process must work according to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

McLeay knows that deciding on a future is a big decision, and she wants her players to feel a connection to the school as well as the coaches before they announce their commitment.

With half of the team already committed on the collegiate level, McLeay said that once they step on to the court, individual scholarships and other teams must be left at the door. However, she says her girls become great teammates and the college atmosphere increases her expectations of the girls as well as of themselves. It holds them to a higher standard than just the high school level. A big motivating factor is seeing Marian alumnae play Division I, II and III volleyball after starting in the same East Gym that they practice in.

Bressman was a freshman when Brittney Witt ’16 committed to Creighton as a senior. McLeay said having upper-classwomen as role models helps her girls visualize where they could be going.

“They only get to be high school teammates once. I want them to enjoy the moment,” McLeay says, and commitment really helps put things into perspective.

Bressman will continue to play outside hitter for her Marian team in the familiarity of the East Gym as the team fights for a state title, until she trades her Marian jersey for a Creighton one.

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Triple threat Ashley Straub (11), Emily Bressman (10), and Grace Hern (9) take the court. 

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