In college volleyball, it’s the tall, hard hitters or the tall, smooth setters who get the most recruiting attention.
But some coaches can see potential in all sizes, and they saw it in Olivia Mauch, a junior-to-be at Bennington who is 5-foot-6 and plays libero.
Nebraska did. Mauch announced her commitment to the Huskers on Wednesday after telling the coaches earlier in the week.
June 15 was the first day college coaches were able to make recruiting calls to the players in the 2024 class.
Shannon Smolinski, the director of performance at the Premier club volleyball program in Omaha, knew what was coming for Mauch. She’d already heard some college coaches identify Mauch as the only libero they were interested in for this class.
The floodgates were about to open.
“We knew it was going to be a busy day for her so we told her to shut her phone off at 12 a.m. because you’ll have coaches that reach out at 12:01 a.m.,” Smolinski said. “We try to tell our kids to put your phone on silent and get your sleep, and then wake up and have your calls.”
About 70 schools reached out to Mauch — emails, texts, social media. Her 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 recruits.
The buzz around her recruiting stock had grown during the club circuit last winter. Still, Mauch was a little surprised that Nebraska reached out on the first day it could and offered her a spot on the team.
“I wasn’t expecting it, so I enjoyed it,” Mauch said.
Just one week into this recruiting cycle, Nebraska already has two commits. Mauch follows a commitment last weekend from Skyler Pierce, a 6-foot-2 outside hitter from Lenexa, Kansas, who is the No. 1 recruit in the nation according to Prep Dig.
Mauch is the No. 48 recruit in the class by Prepvolleyball.com, and No. 3 at her position. Of the 20 players chosen to try out for the United States junior national team later this summer, Mauch is one of just two liberos.
Mauch plays up one age group at Premier, playing on a team that already has several NCAA Division I recruits.
Sometimes in high school, a player is skilled in floor defense or serve-receive. Mauch does both at a high level.
“It’s very similar to like your Justine Wong-Orantes or Lexi Rodriguez,” said Smolinski in comparison to the former Husker libero and the current one. “There is just this touch that 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 the starting libero for Bennington since she was a freshman.
She’s only 5-6, so playing defense is her ticket to big-time college volleyball. But she loves it.
“I love the feeling when you dig a big hitter, and I love hearing the crowd’s reaction to it,” she said.
Mauch also plays beach volleyball, which helps her develop her skills. She’s been around volleyball her whole life.
“I grew up watching my cousins play,” Mauch said. “I went to my first volleyball game when I was 2 days old (for her cousin). My parents played coed, so we’d always be in the gym watching. I started doing camps when I was 5 years old and I wanted to play club, but my mom said I couldn’t try out for club until I could serve the ball overhand from behind the line. So I ended up being on my first club team when I was 7 years old. And then I couldn’t stay out of the gym.”
Photos: Nebraska volleyball officially opens 2022 season with spring game in Grand Island