Three words from her head coach quickly changed Maddy McCormick’s freshman volleyball season at Colorado State University.
On Sept. 30 at Fresno State, the plan to redshirt McCormick this season ended when Tom Hilbert walked down the bench and said, “You’re going in” to his newest outside hitter.
“I was like, ‘Oh, OK. I wasn’t expecting that,’ ” said McCormick, a Crystal Lake Central graduate. “Obviously, I was a little nervous. (My teammates) could probably tell I was freaked out a little bit. A few of them told me, ‘You do this every day. Just go play.’ That really helped a lot.”
With a little boost of encouragement, McCormick swatted away her nerves and piled up 10 kills for the Rams (10-6), who lead the Mountain West Conference with a 6-1 record.
“That really helped my confidence,” McCormick said of the Fresno State match, which featured a kill on her first swing as a college player. “It’s definitely more pressure now, but I like that.”
McCormick’s season began as a redshirt player but with an important role. She studied film of CSU’s opponents and mimicked the opposing outside hitters to help her teammates prepare for matches.
“I would get so many reps every day,” she said. “That helped a lot. The coaches were always saying, ‘Your redshirt isn’t solidified. If there happens to be an injury, you’d be the next one to go in.’ ”
Playing against veteran college athletes in practice – and now in games – has provided plenty of valuable experience.
“It’s a completely different game (than high school),” McCormick said. “Everyone is so talented. Everything runs so much faster. Going up against blockers, they’re so much bigger. You have some girls who are 22, 23 years old. They’re much more developed (blockers).”
While playing seven sets this season, McCormick has contributed 2.57 kills, the second-best average on the team.
Whether she played this season or continued to redshirt, McCormick admits she has maintained the same perspective on the start to her college career.
“Just continue to develop myself,” she said. “Redshirting or not, that’s always been my goal for this year. Developing myself and my game is still my biggest goal, no matter what.”
Rupcich gets Hula invitation: Andrew Rupcich, a senior offensive tackle at NAIA Culver-Stockton College, announced via Twitter this week that he has accepted an invitation to the Hula Bowl game for NFL prospects, which will be played Jan. 15, 2022 in Orlando.
Rupcich, a McHenry West grad, is a two-time All-American for the Wildcats, who are 4-2 this season, and has helped the team scored 38.5 points a game and gain 165.8 yards on the ground each week. The 6-foot-7, 323-pound Rupcich is a four-year starter for Culver-Stockton and chose to return after last year’s COVID-impact season for a fifth year in the program.
Wormsley takes over: Jacobs grad Jimmy Wormsley has taken over as the starting center for the Southern Illinois football team, which is ranked No. 4 in the nation this week.
Wormsley filled in Oct. 2 when starter Calvin Francis suffered a knee injury during a 31-30 overtime win against Western Illinois. Wormsley got his first career start Oct. 9 in the Salukis’ 42-41 overtime road win against then-No. 2 South Dakota State, last season’s national FCS runner-up.
In advance of this week’s game against North Dakota, Wormsley was listed as the starting center on SIU’s depth chart, and he likely will keep the job. The team’s head coach, Nick Hill, announced this week that Francis sustained a torn ACL and meniscus and will miss the remainder of the season.
Smith sisters shine: Carthage College’s Katelyn and Kylie Smith both finished in the top 10 individually last week to help the team win the championship at its own 13-team Firebird Classic cross country meet.
Katelyn Smith took ninth in 25 minutes, 8 seconds over the 6-kilometer course, while Kylie Smith was 10th overall in 25:09.5. The sisters are graduates of CL Central.
Ross, Loyola on a roll: Crystal Lake South grad Jenna Ross and the Loyola Chicago women’s soccer team has produced a 9-2-2 record this fall while outscoring opponents, 23-9.
The Ramblers are 5-0-1 in their past six matches, as Ross starts on a defense that is allowing 0.67 goals a game. Ross has one goal this season. For her career, the graduate student has played in 68 matches.
· Barry Bottino writes about local college athletes for the Northwest Herald. Write to him at email@example.com and follow @BarryOnCampus on Twitter.