As Cary-Grove senior Bree Coffey says, it's been a hard journey.
Last week, Coffey verbally committed to play volleyball at Rutgers in 2015. But getting to that step wasn't the easiest road.
"Nothing for Bree has come easy," Cary-Grove volleyball coach Patty Langanis said. "She's a perfectionist. The physical has also been there. She's made huge strides."
Langanis said Coffey's rise in the game as a libero has been more mental than physical, mostly because she's a perfectionist.
"Definitely, a year ago, I was not good enough to play in the Big Ten (Conference). ... It's opened a lot of doors for me," Coffey said.
Coffey points to a match late last season against Jacobs that finally gave her the confidence to get over that mental hurdle.
"I don't think Bree ever doubted herself," Langanis said. "She just wanted to be perfect. She had to learn how to stay in the moment. She fought hard through all of that."
Coffey also battled for a starting libero spot with her club team, Sky High 17 Black, and that gave her more confidence.
Langanis, also Coffey's club volleyball coach, said she uses the Cary-Grove senior as an example of overcoming a mental struggle to be a better athlete.
"I just try to be excellent in what I do," Coffey said of instead of being perfect. "I just try to get over it. I have the ability to move on."
And, by the way, she's scored a 34 on her ACT. Not quite a perfect 36, but that was close enough for her.
When selecting Rutgers, Coffey was looking for the right mix of academics and athletics. She plans to be a physicist, at least at this point. Coffey made her verbal commitment July 20, about a week after she visited a volleyball camp and really liked the environment and coaching philosophies of the coaching staff.
"They're a very defensive program," the Cary resident said. "I knew it would be easy for me to make those changes. They could mold me and adapt to their program."
The Scarlet Knights finished 5-27 and 1-17 in the American Athletic Conference last season, but now are members of the Big Ten. Last season, the Big Ten saw eight teams qualify for the NCAA tournament with seven Sweet 16 qualifiers and the national champ (Penn State) and national runner-up (Wisconsin).
Coffey said it's reassuring to pick a school and not worry about that aspect during her senior season with the Trojans.
"Finally," Coffey said with a sigh of relief on the next step after high school. "I know it's the right school for me."
Around the Big 10 in volleyball
Illinois: Hillary Haen (Prairie Ridge grad, assistant coach)
Indiana: Amelia Anderson (Crystal Lake Central grad, junior, outside hitter)
Maryland: Amy Dion (Huntley grad, junior, libero)
Penn State: Ali Frantti (Richmond-Burton grad, freshman, outside hitter)