Following in her big brother’s footsteps may not be the easiest thing for Grand Island’s Tia Traudt.
But the sophomore is making a name for herself as one of the best Class A hitters in the state.
The 6-foot-1 sophomore played in the shadow of her brother Isaac last year at Grand Island, and her 6-foot-10 brother’s shadow was huge. Isaac capped off his four-year college basketball career by averaging 23.1 points and being named Nebraska Gatorade Player of the Year.
He is now a freshman at Virginia, leaving his little sister and only brother to carry on for the Islanders. She is third in Class A with 270 wins after finishing her first year with 355.
Coach Marcus Ehrke said he spoke to the second about the possibility of making a name for himself at school.
“Everyone knows her as Isaac’s little sister,” he said. “I told her she had to chart her own path.”
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Tia said she is working hard to achieve this.
“Being known as a little sister is kind of frustrating,” she said. “And I feel some pressure because he played at such a high level.”
Tia also played her big brother’s sport growing up, but she was more interested in volleyball. The 15-year-old is playing at a senior level in her current club team, VCN 16 Elite.
Ehrke, in his third season as Islanders coach, helped lead the team’s turnaround. Grand Island has struggled in recent years, but went 17-14 last year and 13-9 this season.
Traudt’s solid play helped the team’s upward trajectory.
“I leaned on her a lot last year because she’s a good role model and a hard worker,” Ehrke said. “She’s matured even more this season and I’m counting on her to be more of a vocal leader.”
This can be a challenge for a fairly calm sophomore, but Tia said she tried to follow the coach’s orders.
“It’s a little out of my comfort zone,” she said. “But I feel like I have to take more responsibility this year.”
As the only two children of Brandon and Christy Traudt – she played volleyball at UNK – Tia and Isaac are naturally close.
“We text every day and we talk all the time,” Tia said. “He’s always been very supportive.”
This support is limited to advice on what awaits Tia on the recruiting front and not so much on the intricacies of her sport.
“He told me to take my time with the recruitment process,” she said. “But when it comes to volleyball, he doesn’t know much about it.”
Tia is too young for colleges to contact her directly, but Ehrke knows Division I programs are interested.
“They know her because of her last name,” he said. “And because of his volleyball skills.”
The coach added that she was successful despite being the opponents’ main defensive target.
“We know their reconnaissance reports start with how to try to stop it,” Ehrke said. “She has good size and good technique, and everything seems to come naturally to her.”
Traudt is already a six-rotation player for the Islanders and her goal is to do the same in college.
“I know I’ll have to keep working hard to get there,” she said. “I feel like I need to improve my blocking and overall defense, so that’s a goal.”
Another goal is the state tournament, although this one won’t be easy. Grand Island, a four-time finalist, has never won a state title and hasn’t reached the tournament since 2013.
“We held on last year and we’re doing even better this year,” she said. “Getting to the state would be nice but I know it’s really going to be a challenge.”
Photos: Volleyball teams from all over Nebraska over the years