From the first day she picked up a volleyball, Josie Schmitendorf dreamed of playing at the Division I level.
Last week, the Huntley junior realized her childhood dream and committed to Eastern Kentucky. Schmitendorf visited the Richmond, Kentucky, school for the first time April 8 and announced her commitment on Twitter.
“I started playing when I was 8, and playing Division I volleyball has always been the ultimate goal,” Schmitendorf said. “It feels like a weight has finally been lifted off my shoulders. It feels amazing.
“Now I can focus on improving myself and improving the little things.”
Schmitendorf did not have contact with Eastern Kentucky until a month ago. The Colonels first saw Schmitendorf with her club team, Sky High, at a national invitational tournament in Kansas City.
Things moved quickly from there, Schmitendorf said. She also was in contact with New Hampshire, Radford and La Salle.
Eastern Kentucky finished 5-23 and 4-12 in the Ohio Valley Conference last year. The Colonels named Johnna Fouch, a two-time Mountain West Conference Setter of the Year, head coach in December. Fouch previously served as assistant coach since 2015.
“I absolutely fell in love with the school,” said Schmitendorf, who plans on enrolling in the nursing program. “I wasn’t looking for somewhere too far from home because I knew I’d get homesick. The program is more like a family atmosphere. I love the way they run practices, and they are down-to-earth people. Some coaches are kind of intimidating, but they’re not like that at all.”
Schmitendorf plays on the same Sky High team with Huntley’s Taylor Jakubowski (Seton Hall), Prairie Ridge’s Trinity Sheridan (UNLV) and Crystal Lake Central’s Camryn Hausler (Wright State) and Madde Blake. Schmitendorf, Jakubowski, Hausler and Blake have played on the same club team for six years.
Last season, Schmitendorf was third on the Red Raiders with more than 250 digs behind senior Sarah Zayas and Jakubowski. Schmitendorf, a libero, has played varsity all three years for Huntley and was a part of the program’s first Fox Valley Conference championship as a freshman.
Huntley has won three consecutive Class 4A regional titles with Schmitendorf on the back row. The Raiders lost to St. Charles East, 26-24, 18-25, 25-19, in a Huntley Sectional final last year and finished an area-best 35-4 with a 22-match winning streak.
With seven seniors graduating, Schmitendorf will take on an even bigger role in her last season.
“We’re going to miss our seniors,” Schmitendorf said. “We were in it for the long run, but we did fall a little bit short. We played for each other, and I think that’s really important to be successful. We weren’t the tallest team, but we played for each other.
“I’m looking forward to playing for Huntley one more time.”