In college volleyball, it’s the big hard hitters or big passers that get the most attention.
But some coaches can see potential in all sizes, and they saw it in Olivia Mauch, a future junior at Bennington who is 5-foot-6 and plays the libero.
Nebraska did. Mauch announced his commitment to the Huskers on Wednesday after telling coaches earlier in the week.
June 15 was the first day college coaches were able to issue recruiting calls for players in the Class of 2024.
Shannon Smolinski, performance director of the Premier club’s volleyball program in Omaha, knew what awaited Mauch. She had already heard some college coaches identify Mauch as the only Libero they were interested in for this class.
The floodgates were about to open.
People also read…
“We knew it was going to be a busy day for her, so we told her to turn off her phone at 12:00 a.m. because you’ll have coaches contacting you at 12:01 a.m.,” Smolinski said. “We try to tell our kids to put your phone on silent and go to sleep, then wake up and get your calls.”
Around 70 schools have contacted Mauch – emails, text messages, social media. His other finalists were Creighton and Pittsburgh.
Last summer, Mauch attended Nebraska’s Dream Team camp, where she got to play with some of Nebraska’s current players and other rookies.
Buzz around his recruiting stock had increased during the club circuit last winter. Still, Mauch was a bit surprised that Nebraska had reached out on the first possible day and offered her a spot on the team.
“I didn’t expect it, so I enjoyed it,” Mauch said.
Barely a week into this recruiting cycle, Nebraska already has two commitments. Mauch follows a commitment last weekend from Skyler Pierce, a 6-foot-2 outside hitter from Lenexa, Kansas, who is the No. 1 rookie in the nation according to Prep Dig.
Mauch is the No. 48 rookie in the class by Prepvolleyball.com and the No. 3 in his position. Of the 20 players chosen to make the United States Junior National Team later this summer, Mauch is one of only two Liberos.
Mauch plays in an age group at Premier, playing on a team that already has several NCAA Division I rookies.
Sometimes in high school, a player is good at ground defense or serving-receiving. Mauch does both at a high level.
“It’s very similar to your Justine Wong-Orantes or Lexi Rodriguez,” Smolinski said of the former and current Husker Libero. “There’s just this touch they have on the ball, and once you see that you kind of put yourself in a different category. And that’s (Olivia).
Mauch has been Bennington’s starting libero since his freshman year.
She’s only 5-6, so playing defense is her ticket to top-flight college volleyball. But she loves it.
“I love the feeling when you dig a big hitter, and I love hearing the reaction from the crowd,” she said.
Mauch also plays beach volleyball, which helps him develop his skills. She’s been around volleyball all her life.
“I grew up watching my cousins play,” Mauch said. “I went to my first volleyball game when I was 2 days old (for his cousin). My parents were playing coed, so we were always in the gym watching. I started doing camps when I was 5 and wanted to play club but my mum told me I couldn’t try club until I could serve the ball over the line so I ended up by making my first club team when I was 7. And then I couldn’t stay out of the gym.
Photos: Nebraska volleyball officially opens 2022 season with spring game at Grand Island