One of Harvest Christian Academy's most decorated girls volleyball athletes has some simple advice for this year's Lions team that will play Friday in the Class 2A state semifinals for the first time in program history.
"Just enjoy the moment, especially the seniors," said 2017 Harvest graduate Mikayla Robinson, a nationally ranked prep recruit (by both VolleyballMag.com and PrepVolleyball.com) in the midst of her freshman season at Division I South Carolina. "Enjoy the moment while it lasts because it will go by fast. Put everything you can on the court."
Robinson, a West Dundee native who played for the Crystal Lake-based Sky High Volleyball Club, never had the chance to play in Redbird Arena in a Harvest uniform. She was part of four of the last six Harvest girls volleyball teams that were stopped a game short of the semifinals in the supersectional round.
Harvest faces Champaign St. Thomas More at 1:30 p.m. Friday at Illinois State University's Redbird Arena in Normal.
"I'm so happy for them, especially since it's been seven years," she said before South Carolina's Southeastern Conference match Wednesday against Missouri in Columbia, S.C. "I went to the supersectional every year I played there. It was tough. We worked really hard all the time and that's all that matters as long as you try your hardest."
At South Carolina, the 6-foot-2 Robinson has made an immediate impact as a true freshman. As of Wednesday she had started all 24 of the team's matches (11-13 overall, 4-8 in SEC play) and ranked second on the team in kills with 211 (2.32 per set), while hitting a solid .310 from her middle-blocker position. She also leads the team in blocks with 92 total (1.02 per set).
"I've gotten better at transitioning faster," she said. "I'm faster in general with my hitting and blocking."
Robinson, the daughter of former Chicago Bears player Marcus Robinson, admits the college game has been a bit of an eye-opener compared to the high-school and club circuits.
"In college you are working more on a position than club," said Robinson. "Club prepares you for college, but college is different. It's a faster game. It's been a really big adjustment."
Robinson also is a big fan of the South Carolina volleyball culture and lauded the efforts of first-year Gamecocks coach Dottie Hampton and her staff. "I live the environment here," she said. "It's family-oriented. I like our team and the coaches. I love coach Hampton. We're all really close. I like how we can talk about our problems. We're very close as a team."
Volleyball aside, Robinson is having a blast on the South Carolina campus and in the Columbia area in general.
"I like the campus even though I'm still getting to know it," she said. "It's very nice, plus I love the weather."
When Robinson spoke to the Daily Herald, the temperature was in the 70s in Columbia compared to the 40s in the Fox Valley area.
Looking back, Robinson said she first got the bug to play in college her sophomore year at Harvest.
"I started playing volleyball my freshman year," she said. "It was probably my sophomore year when I realized I really liked the sport and started getting better. That's when I wanted to play in college."
Doby at Grand Valley State: Another Harvest Christian alum having success on the collegiate volleyball court is Sydney Doby, who is a senior on the Division II Grand Valley State volleyball team.
Doby, who played on the 2011, 2012 and 2013 Harvest teams that advanced to the Class 1A supersectional, recently was voted as the D2 Volleyball HERO of the Week per the results of a three-day poll. The award is presented by HERO Sports and recognizes the top individual performances of the week for NCAA sports.
During the award time frame, Doby led the Lakers to two GLIAC victories over Tiffin and Ashland by posting 27 kills against only 5 errors on 61 swings (. 361 hitting percentage). She also had 17 digs and 4 block assists.
In the match against Tiffin, Doby, a middle blocker, hit .282 and had 15 kills to go with 11 digs. In the contest against Ashland, Doby had 12 kills and hit .500 thanks to committing only 1 error on 22 swings. She also had 6 digs and 3 block assists.
As a freshman, Doby appeared in four of Grand Valley State's five NCAA tournament matches, including appearances in the Division II Elite Eight and Final Four.
At Harvest, Doby was a four-time team MVP, totaling 1,133 kills, 696 digs, 285 service aces and 248 total blocks. She had 414 kills, 356 digs, 101 aces and hit .443 during her senior year at the Elgin-based private high school.
Off at College wants your help: Send information and/or statistics on Fox Valley-area athletes playing collegiately to Mike Miazga at firstname.lastname@example.org.