Pius X’s VanLoon, St. Cecilia’s Hamburger Make College Choices
It’s a well-known fact that some of the best Division II and NAIA volleyball in the country is played in the Midwest. In some cases, the DII and NAIA powers are better than the bottom of the roughly 300 D1 programs.
Two of the state’s top high school seniors know that very well, and that played a large roll in their college decisions this week.
Yesterday, Kaitlin VanLoon, a 5-foot-11 middle from Lincoln Pius X, gave her commitment to DII Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. She had been considering Division I schools Dayton and Loyola (Maryland) and was in communication with schools such as Townson, Indiana State and Virginia Commonwealth.
Clare Hamburger, a 5-foot-8 setter from Hastings St. Cecilia, gave her verbal to Hastings College yesterday. Hamburger was All-Nebraska Second Team a year ago after leading the Hawkettes to the Class C-2 state championship. A multi-sport athlete, Hamburger ultimately decided to play volleyball at Hastings instead of taking an offer to play basketball at Doane.
VanLoon, who played this past club season for Nebraska ONE Lone Wolf, had 424 kills a year ago for the Thunderbolts to go with 42 blocks and 31 ace serves. She had 16 kills and 2 blocks in Pius X’s quarterfinal loss to Elkhorn South in the Class B State Tournament.
She said when it came time to make a decision on where to play, it ultimately came down to going where she felt she would be challenged the most, both on and off the court.
“Ever since I was little, I’ve wanted to play Division I volleyball,” VanLoon said. “I had to make a decision between playing competitively or playing at Division I. I realized when I visited (Washburn) that I wanted to keep playing competitively. That’s what was most important to me.”
Washburn is a traditional DII power and went 31-6 overall last season and 15-1 in the MIAA Conference. It is also where last year’s Nebraska Prep Volleyball Class C-1 Player of the Year Shayla Conner of Kearney Catholic will be playing in the fall.
VanLoon, who said she transferred to Pius X from public schools to focus more on her faith, also said Washburn’s culture seemed very consistent with what she’s use to at Pius X. She also said Washburn’s business program was a factor as she is looking at majoring in marketing or advertising as well as Spanish.
“Playing at Pius, it’s an amazing program,” she said. “Washburn has a lot of the same ideals. When you walk into the Washburn gym, they have jerseys handing in the rafters of their All-Americans, and (coach Chris Herron) said players that go there want to have their jerseys hanging there, and that’s what I want.”
For Hamburger, the chance to stay close to home and play for one of the best NAIA teams in the region was not something she was going to pass up.
“I’ve grown up here and I love this town,” Hamburger said of Hastings. “I get to stay close to friends and I can go back and watch my high school teammates play.”
Hamburger is one of the premier setters in the state and a definitely recruiting steal for Broncos coach Matt Buttermore. Hamburger said Buttermore has been communicating with her since she attended the elite camp at Hastings following her freshman year.
Playing for the Broncos also will give Hamburger the opportunity to be reunited with cousin and former St. Cecilia teammate Libby Kissinger, who will be a junior defensive specialist for the Broncos this fall.
“I always thought it would be cool to go play with her again,” Hamburger said. “I really like the (Hastings) campus and the school itself.
“(Buttermore) is a really good coach. When I’ve gone and watched their games, I like the way they play and all the players on the team are really into Hastings College and volleyball.”
During the regular season in 2013, Hamburger had 831 assists, 103 kills, 11 blocks, 35 ace serves and 277 digs for St. Cecilia. In the three state tournament matches, she added another 133 assists, 41 digs and 20 kills.
Also recently, setter Mattison Munger of Council Bluffs St. Albert gave her verbal to South Dakota State. This past club season she played for River City 171 out of Omaha.