Crystal Lake South's Nolan chooses Cincinnati

Throughout her college volleyball recruiting process, Crystal Lake South outside hitter Carly Nolan kept her mother’s words in mind. 

When you find your school, Mary Nolan had told her daughter, you’ll know. 

On Sunday, Carly Nolan knew. After watching Cincinnati’s women’s volleyball team play Houston, Nolan pulled Bearcats coach Molly Alvey aside and committed to play for Cincinnati in the fall of 2015.

Nolan was weighing another offer from Iowa before deciding on Cincinnati, culminating a three-year recruiting process that took Nolan to more college campuses than she can remember. 

“It was such an amazing feeling,” said Nolan, who is helping lead the Gators to the Class 4A state semifinals Friday at Illinois State University’s Redbird Arena in Normal. “It’s such a relief because the process really was stressful. It feels good to be done.”

Nolan has turned herself into one of the area’s most dominant outside hitters. During the offseason, Nolan took speed and agility training at Crystal Lake-based Davis Speed Center and worked on her verticals. The work shows, particularly at the service line where Nolan’s jump serve routinely aces opponents. 

Mary Nolan’s record-setting career at Texas Tech inspired her daughter to take up volleyball initially, and Mary’s expertise helped Carly navigate the often choppy waters filled with as many overzealous recruiting pitches as sincere and promising ones. 

Carly Nolan started getting attention as a freshman on Sky High’s club teams. Cincinnati coaches began looking at Nolan during her Sky High team’s AAU Junior National Championship appearance in Orlando in 2012, although Nolan did not realize the Bearcats were scouting her at the time. 

Alvey finally sold Nolan by appealing to her inner competitive spirit. 

“They’re not having the best season,” said Nolan of Cincinnati (1-26), which earned its first win of the season Oct. 27 against Rutgers. “But Coach Alvey said to me, ‘Carly, when you come to this program, we’re going to start winning.’ That’s the kind of program I want to be a part of because I really want to win more than anything.”

Cincinnati is not far removed from success. The Bearcats won Big East Conference titles in 2008 and 2010 – Cincinnati now plays in the American Athletic Conference – and won at least 20 matches in 16 of its 17 seasons from 1995 to 2011. 

Nolan will receive a full athletic scholarship and still is deciding what she would like to study.