GH athletes 'excited' to continue playing careers in college

Grand Haven's Ashley Slater, Sarah Knoll and Reilly Swierbut signed their letters of intent to play college volleyball on Friday. 

For some, the college recruiting process can be a long, drawn-out process. On Friday, some of Grand Haven’s athletes were able to finally relax on their national signing day, as they confirmed where they’ll be in college.

Swimmer Kathryn Ackerman, as well as volleyball players Sarah Knoll, Ashley Slater and Reilly Swierbut, all signed their letters of intent after school Friday. Ackerman is headed to Michigan next fall, but she won’t be done competing for her school until after next weekend’s swimming state finals.

Knoll is headed north to Houghton, where she’ll attend Michigan Tech. She initially committed to the Huskies in July 2018, but after finally putting pen to paper she was relieved to be done with the process.

“It’s really nice,” Knoll said. The 6-foot-1 middle hitter came into her own in the second half of the volleyball season. “It’s like a huge weight gets off your shoulders, but it’s also pretty exciting.”

She was also excited to experience a new setting, claiming that she was a fan of the outdoors.

“My mom’s an engineer, and I always felt like that was the path for me. Tech is one of the better schools for that. I was looking for a medium-sized school, so Tech was perfect for that. I love the outdoors, and we went to a camp they had put on up there and I just fell in love with the campus.”

Parents Jim and Sheryl were also happy that Sarah picked something relatively close to home.

“We couldn’t be more proud of her,” Jim said. “She’s worked her tail off, and she’s going exactly where she wants to be, so it works out great. They’re in the GLIAC, so we can get to Saginaw, Ferris and Grand Valley. In-state was the goal, and it was as far away as she could get and still be in-state.”

Reilly Swierbut chose an unconventional path when it came to playing at the next level, but one thing that can’t be ignored is the quality of the program she picked. The libero is headed to Champaign, Ill. – not to play for Illinois, but rather for Division II powerhouse Parkland College. The Cobras are 54-2 this season, and are consistent contenders for NJCAA titles.

“That’s one of the reasons I chose them,” Swierbut said. “They have a good program all the way around.”

Her recruitment process did start a touch later than her teammates, as she headed into 2019 still unsure of what would come next. After visiting campus in mid-July, she committed later in August. She plans to play at Parkland for two years before transferring to a four-year school in the midwest.

“I’m really happy that I found my place,” Swierbut said. “When Ashley committed in her sophomore year and Sarah did her junior year, it was stressful. I was just comparing myself a little, so we just had to relax. Being able to have that stress off my back is awesome.”

Ashley Slater had been committed to the ACC’s Wake Forest since her sophomore year, so today was merely a formality. Regardless, she was ready to move into the next phase of her volleyball career.

“It’s really exciting, because I committed two years ago, so now it’s a real thing,” Slater said. “It was just a verbal commit, but now that it’s real it’s awesome.”

Volleyball head coach Aaron Smaka was excited to celebrate the day with parents and families he’s come to know in his time with the program.

“With the Knolls, they’ve been here for eight straight years between Ally and now Sarah coming through, so this is their last one,” Smaka said. Sarah’s older sister Allison would go on to play for Central Michigan. “It’s cool when you’ve known families for this long.”

Contact Kyle Turk at kturk@grandhaventribune.com or on Twitter @KyleTurkGHT.

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