From no sport to Division I athlete
Late start can’t stop Crimson volleyball star from earning scholarship
By Bob San
When Maple Grove senior volleyball hitter Tegan LaBerge was in junior high, she was a young athletic girl who could not find a sport to fall in love with.
“I like sports but I wasn’t really into one sport,” LaBerge said. “I played softball and soccer and didn’t love any of them.”
That changed in eighth grade when she attended a volleyball camp conducted by Osseo High coach Bill Quan.
“I thought I would hate it but I thought I would try it and be out with my friends,” LaBerge said. “But I fell in love with it.”
LaBerge made a quick first impression on Quan.
“When she first came to our camp we noticed her right away. She was tall and athletic and you could tell she was going to be a player,” Quan said.
LaBerge was happy to finally find a sport she loves. But little did she know at the time that in two short years, she would receive a scholarship offer to play Division I college volleyball for Drake University. LaBerge is the first Maple Grove volleyball player to sign a Division I scholarship in many years.
Longtime Crimson coach Monika Getchell can recall only two, the last one being Emily Johnson, who signed with Florida State in 2004.
After she fell in love with volleyball in eighth grade, LaBerge started playing club volleyball with Cross Fire later that year. In ninth grade she played on the Maple Grove sophomore team with Getchell and played three varsity seasons as an outside hitter for the Crimson. In her senior year, she led the Crimson with 375 kills and was second in the conference in hitting percentage at 4.2 per set, earning all-conference honor.
The huge turning point for LaBerge’s volleyball journey came in 10th grade when she joined the Northern Light Club. Playing with and against elite players and getting specialized coaching, LaBerge’s skill levels took a gigantic leap.
That’s also the summer when she first discovered the possibility of playing in college.
“In my sophomore year I was playing club volleyball at a tournament and one of the college coaches talked to my parents and said I have the potential to play in college,” LaBerge recalled. “I thought, ‘oh I didn’t know that.’ I started to look at smaller colleges and what level I wanted to play at. As I got older, I realized that playing Div. I was going to be a really cool experience that you can’t duplicate anywhere else.”
It was at a summer tournament in her sophomore year that Drake coach Tony Sunga contacted and recruited LaBerge. After visiting the school, LaBerge committed verbally in her junior year and signed this past fall.
“I was looking at three, four schools, but once I visited Drake I just loved it,” LaBerge said. “It fits a lot of criteria. It’s a good distance from home. It is not too close, not too far and has a lot of things I want. Des Moines is a really cool city. I love the campus, I love the coaches and it is just the right school for me.”
LaBerge still shakes her head at the reality that she picked up volleyball in eighth grade and next season she will be a Division I player.
“I don’t know how that happened, to tell you the truth,” LaBerge said. “It’s a huge blessing. I didn’t ever think before high school that I would play sport, much less in college.”
But her high school coach said LaBerge has earned it.
“One of her attributes is that she will do whatever it takes to improve,” Getchell said. “She spent hundreds of hours getting her body ready and speeding up her arm. That’s what you need to do to be a Div. I athlete. She is just a really nice kid, very bright, well-rounded and active in her church. She also has the unique ability to jump. Most players jump and they come down but when Tegan jumps, she keeps going up in the air. She is going to be a really, really good college player.”
LaBerge gives a lot of credits to Northern Light for making it happen.
“It’s really great to be playing there because I got great coaching and the level of talent that you are playing with is so much higher that you just improve,” she said.
Northern Light’s reputation and its familiarity with the college recruiting process was also a huge help to LaBerge.
“They have a process to select kids who have potentials and want to get better and so they can help them with the recruiting process,” she said. “You have coaches that know college coaches. They have good connections. And I think college coaches also know that Northern Light is the club to watch because they know players who want to play in college play there. So they will come to tournaments and watch the teams. It’s a good name to play under if you are interested in college.”
LaBerge is grateful about what volleyball has done for her and thanks her teammates for making her a better player.
“It’s a huge opportunity to even go to school at Drake because I would not have that opportunity otherwise if I didn’t have the volleyball scholarship,” she said. “It’s exciting but I know I would not be at this place without my teams, so I am thankful to my teams.”
LaBerge hopes her story will encourage other players to give college volleyball serious thoughts.
“I hope the girls in the future will want to go to play in college because it’s a huge opportunity and most of them have the potential to do that,” she said.