Western Nebraska Community College volleyball coach Binny Canales didn’t have to look far in recruiting height for next season after signing Gering’s giants Olivia Schaub and Arianna Mitchell to Letter of Intents on Monday.
Schaub, a 6-foot outside hitter, and Mitchell, a 5-11 middle hitter, had stellar careers at Gering over their four-year careers. The two become the third player that Canales has signed for next season. Earlier, Olivia Transfiguracion of Kapolei, Hawaii, signed. Transfiguracion is a 5-7 setter.
Schaub and Mitchell have known the Cougar program for quite a while and are thankful that they get to be a part of a nationally-known program.
“I have always had it in my mind to play there. I never thought I would stay local; I thought I would be one of those kids that would say they want to leave town and get out,” Schaub said. “This year, especially talking to coach [Canales] and talking to this coach [Amanda Cochran] they have been helping be out. Everybody had been helping me make my decision. I think scrimmaging with the team helped me make my decision.”
For Mitchell, she had to set out most of the season but came back to play in the final weeks of the season. For her to continue playing college volleyball at the same college that her sister, Santanna, played at and helped the Cougars to a runner-up finish at nationals, is special.
“I decided to go there because it was close to home and family and friends,” Mitchell said. “My sister went there, too, so she has taught me a lot about the program. I even watched her play.”
Canales said he is fortunate to sign the two Gering teammates.
“I think they are a huge upside to our program,” he said. “I think they will get nothing but better and I feel fortunate to have them both. They have good size. They are good athletes. I see them helping us in the next two years.”
Gering coach Amanda Cochran is excited to watch them play volleyball for the next two seasons.
“I am super excited that these two get to continue their education more than anything and play a sport they love,” Cochran said. “There is a room full of people here [at the signing], so do you see that. So good luck to you.”
Both hitters had outstanding careers at a Bulldog. Not only were they standouts in volleyball, but they also were standouts on the basketball court.
Schaub had an outstanding senior season. The outside hitter finished with 311 kills, 31 aces, 35 solo blocks, and 319 digs. For her 3-year varsity career, Schaub tallied 584 kills, 85 blocks, 639 digs, and 89 aces.
Schaub said that she has improved over the years and is ready to improve even more.
“I played a little bit of varsity my sophomore year. I got in and that was exciting,” she said. “My junior year I started and that was a huge growth from playing a little bit of varsity my sophomore year and jumping to a starter. Then from my junior to senior year, I had to grow a lot, especially in those two years with the challenges we faced. I liked growing as a player this year.
She isn’t done growing either.
“[At WNCC] I will need to catch up to the speed of their sets, their blocking, serving and passing, and pretty much everywhere,” she said. “I am excited to be playing at that speed.”
For Mitchell, she appeared in just 11 sets at the end of the season this season and finished with 16 kills with just five hitting errors in 69 attempts.
It was her junior year that Mitchell stood out. The 5-11 middle hitter finished with 256 kills, 21 aces, 64 blocks, and 182 digs. For her 4-year volleyball career, Mitchell tallied 533 kills, 71 solo blocks140 total blocks, 47 aces, and 295 digs.
Mitchell said just coming back to get back on the court was her goal and she accomplished that.
“My main goal was to get back on the court, maybe for a set or maybe just practicing,” she said. “Now, at WNCC, I just want to grow as a player I guess and get used to the speed of the play up there.”
Cochran said Mitchell’s dedication to come back is what makes her special.
“I can’t say enough about the character that you showed this year in coming back to get on the court,” Cochran said. “I can’t wait to see what you do with the next two years.”
Schaub and Mitchell have been a part of a senior group of girls that have really stepped up and excelled. Schaub said that is something that she treasures, being a leader.
“Stepping up as a leader this year was super important with the challenges we faced as a team,” she said. “I knew we were going to need someone step up on the court.”
Cochran said the senior class was special this season.
“This senior group of girls is a pretty awesome group of kids,” Cochran said. “They have shown great leadership this year and they had to endure the challenges that we faced like Olivia said. They have gone through a lot off the court together, so they have taught each other how to care for one another and love one another no matter what we are going through.”
Canales said that both players have all the tools to succeed at the next level.
“They have good platforms. They just have to get used to a faster serve. They are great kids and I am thankful that we signed them.
What made their decision easier was when the two went up and visited the college and played with the team.
“That [playing with the team] was a huge factor in my decision,” Schaub said. “I didn’t know how well we would fit in. They made us feel like we were part of the team. From the moment we stepped on the court they knew our names.”
And, to have Mitchell at her side for the next two years will even be more special.
“I am very excited [to have Arianna coming with me],” Schaub said. “I am so blessed to have her with me and I just love her so much. I am glad I get to take my best friend to college with me and play with her a few more years.”
For Mitchell, playing for WNCC will be fun and her goal is to accomplish what her sister did and to even go further.
“It was a pretty big factor [knowing that I have watched them,” she said. “They have always been good. They have gone to nationals and won Region IX titles. I want to be a part of that.”