MARSHALL - Southwest Minnesota State University head volleyball coach Terry Culhane announced on Wednesday that five high school standouts have signed letters of intent to continue their academic and volleyball careers at SMSU.
Joining the Mustangs' program for the 2014 season include local players Kenzie Beekman and Hannah Bennett, both from Marshall; and Megan Larson, from Minneota. Southwest Minnesota State also signed Brooke Borchardt, from Zimmerman; Greta Geist, from Burnsville.
SMSU is ranked No. 8 in the latest AVCA Top 25 poll and is 21-6 overall and 15-3 in the NSIC.
Photo by Jeff Arenz
Marshall senior volleyball players (from left) Hannah Bennett, Kenzie Beekman and Sydney Griffin sign letters of intent to continue their academic and athletic careers at the collegiate level. Bennett, a libero, and Beekman, an outside hitter, chose to attend Southwest Minnesota State, while Griffin decided to attend the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, N.D.
Marshall's Sydney Griffin also made her college decision Thursday, choosing to continue her academic and volleyball careers at the University of North Dakota.
Griffin will play for UND, which is guided by head coach Ashley Hardee.
North Dakota, an NCAA?Division I member of the Big Sky Conference is 19-9 overall and 14-2 in league matches this season.
Beekman, a 5-foot-10, outside hitter at Marshall High School, played for coach Dan Westby and helped lead the Tigers to four state tournament appearances, including three state championships during her career.
Beekman said Southwest Minnesota State is a good fit for her, especially on the volleyball court.
"SMSU has a strong volleyball program and I like being here in Marshall," Beekman said. "I like the girls that will be my teammates and I like the SMSU coaches."
A four-time all-conference and three-time all-state honoree, Beekman finished her career recording 1,915 kills, 1,163 digs and 166 service aces.
A Baden Miss Volleyball finalist, Beekman finished the 2013 season with a .410 hitting percentage, with 540 kills and 420 digs.
Beekman was twice named a PrepVolleyball.com All-American during her career and was the 2012 Marshall Independent Player of the Year.
"Kenzie is very athletic and is an excellent competitor," Culhane said. "She has been well coached and the success Kenzie and her team had in high school will certainly help in her transition to the college game."
Beekman said college level volleyball will be different.
"It will be a new thing, but I think Coach Westby trained us and prepared us very well for it," Beekman said.
Bennett, a 5-7, libero at Marshall High School, played for coach Dan Westby and was a member of three state championship teams, while being named all-conference and all-state during her career.
"I really love my family, SMSU is right here in Marshall and it has a great volleyball program," Bennett said. "To have all of those things at once, it was a great decision our family. I can still go to college and still be able to watch my sister and brother play sports."
Bennett finished the 2013 season with 570 digs and was named to the Class AA state all-tournament team. She, an all-conference player in basketball, closed her volleyball career with 1,540 digs and 110 service aces.
"Hannah comes from a very successful program where she contributed greatly," Culhane said. "She is a good ball handler who works extremely hard. Hannah will bring good back row play to our team. We look forward to having her enthusiasm and effort joining our team."
Bennett said the college game will be played at a faster pace.
"It's going to be faster, but Terry is a great coach," Bennett said. "Kenzie and I know he expects from us, and we will playing Junior Olympic this offseason to prepare for college."
Larson, a 5-9, setter for coach Stephanie Hennen at Minneota High School, helped lead the Vikings to third place finishes at both the 2012 and 2013 state tournaments and was named to the all-tournament team both years.
Larson finished the 2013 season with 1,051 assists and closed her career recording more than 3,000 assists.
"Each year, Megan has improved her setting skills and the understanding of running an offense," Culhane said. "She is athletic and has a good work ethic. She should adjust to the college game well and is a very selfless player."
Borchardt, a 6-1, middle hitter at Zimmerman High School for coach Cassandra Olson, holds the school record with more than 1,000 career kills and is also the school record holder in blocks.
Borchardt is a three-time all-conference honoree and was a 2013 Minnesota State High School League ExCEL award winner. She also plays basketball and competes track and field.
"Brooke's athletic ability and length will be an asset in the college game," Culhane said. "We feel her best volleyball will be ahead of her and she is looking forward to the challenge of college volleyball."
Geist, a 5-6, libero at Burnsville High School, played for coach Kari Raymond and finished the 2013 season with 506 digs, while recording 937 digs in a three-year career.
A two-time team captain and academic all-state honoree, Geist was named all-conference three times and helped lead her team to a conference championship as a junior.
"Greta is a good competitor who will bring a good skill set along with enthusiasm and determination," Culhane said. "She has played at a solid club level and understands what it takes to play at a high level."
Griffin, 5-11, setter at Marshall High School for coach Dan Westby, averaged 12.6 set assists during 56 regular season sets in 2013. She added 3.8 kills and 3.6 kills per set.
Griffin was impressed with many facets of North Dakota.
"They had great facilities, plus the coaches and the girls on the team are pretty awesome people," Griffin said. "Overall, I could see myself exceling, academically and athletically, there."
Griffin believes she will fit right into the college game.
"It's probably going to be a little faster game at North Dakota, but I think that I will be able to make a smooth transition," Griffin said.