Hollywood is a place where a good story is always embraced.
It’s where unpredictability, plot twists, heroes and magical endings are celebrated.
It’s also where Raegan LeGrand finds herself looking back on the first two years of her college volleyball career and looking ahead at the blank pages in front of her that have yet to reveal how her Hollywood story ends.
The 2015 Gatorade Player of the Year in the state of Nebraska for Papillion-LaVista South was back home over the holidays and over breakfast one morning she talked about her first two years at the University of Southern California and what she thinks the future holds.
“Overall the experience has been amazing and I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” LeGrand said. “I can’t picture myself anywhere else. It’s a family away from a family – and that makes it so much easier to be away from my actual family.”
LeGrand was heavily recruited out of high school, where she had a four-year career that ranks among the best of this generation. As a freshman in 2012 for the Titans, she was the starting libero on arguably the best high school team in state history.
In her final three years in high school, the 5’10 LeGrand moved to outside hitter and instantly became one of the state’s top full-rotation players. In those final three years combined, she had more than 1,300 kills and 1,000 digs – including 485 kills and 443 digs her senior year.
She had offers from Nebraska, Creighton and many others, but her heart had always been set on playing in California. Her cousin, Gabi Ailes, was an All-American libero at Stanford and watching her play growing up planted that West Coast dream deep in LeGrand’s mind.
When USC did offer LeGrand, it didn’t take her long to commit. But, she went there with her eyes wide open, understanding that All-American libero Taylor Whittingham would be returning for her senior season when she got there. LeGand only saw action in four matches as a freshman, but what she gained being behind Whittingham was invaluable, she said.
“It was real eye-opening, but I consider myself the luckiest person in the world because I had Taylor Whittingham there when I showed up,” she said. “She taught me so much on and off the court and she was someone that when you watched her play you realized that’s how it’s supposed to be done.”
With the graduation of Whittingham came open competition from the remaining Trojans to take the starting libero spot and junior Victoria Garrick grabbed it while sophomore Ohio State transfer Jenna Adams took the DS position.
LeGrand is the first to say she didn’t have the best spring and summer last year and simply didn’t play as well as Garrick and Adams. But, she said, she’s ready to flip the script in the upcoming months.
“This year, for me, it was more figuring out what I need to bring to the table going forward. Going into spring season, it’s exciting because you have four or five months to work just on you and your game,” she said. “I’m going to work my butt off this spring season and I want to go and get the libero position. I know I have girls on my team that will work just as hard and are amazing athletes and that every day is going to be a competition. At the same time, that’s how I want it. So, at the end of the day it will be whoever is better. This season, that was Victoria Garrett and she did an amazing job, but everything is open in the spring and I’m excited. We’re a group of people who love each other and want the best for each other and whoever earns that spot earns it and the rest will be happy for that person and push them every day.”
There will also be a new coach making the decisions when LeGrand gets back to Los Angeles.
Despite guiding the Trojans to the Elite Eight this year, Mick Haley was fired as head coach after 16 seasons with USC. While there has not been a replacement named yet, LeGrand sees it as a fresh slate.
“Obviously Mick leaves an amazing legacy, but I am anxious to see what happens and how the team responds,” LeGrand said. “I’m excited to see where we go from here, but at the same time that’s a really big legacy to fill.”
Whoever the next coach is, LeGrand said that person will inherit a team anxious to make another run in the NCAA Tournament. USC had match point on eventual national runners-up Florida in the regional final before falling in five sets. USC reached the regional final with an impressive sweep of Minnesota in the round of 16.
“It was eye opening because it was like we can actually do this,” LeGrand said of the win over Minnesota. “Going into the (Florida) match you could feel the mutual respect between the teams where you could just tell we were going to go to war with each other. They really did an amazing job against us especially their right sides and middles. Even though we lost, it didn’t feel like we lost in some ways because of how amazing some of the moments were. Even afterward, looking back, we were like, we just did something amazing here even though we lost. That was a pretty cool feeling.”