by Nick Clark
Sun POST Newspapers
When a college volleyball program that is home to six consecutive NCAA national championships calls, there is no other option.
Not when a pair of smaller Division I schools have already offered. Not even when a chance to play Division II at another institution seems perfect.
At least in this instance, it doesn’t matter.
Champlin Park senior Mariya Sampson certainly saw it that way, and frankly, she is far from alone with it comes to high school volleyball players in Minnesota.
Concordia University in St. Paul and garnered that type of clout.
“When they contacted me and said there was an opportunity there, that made it pretty easy,” said Sampson of her college choice, which she made official with a verbal commitment near the start of the school year.
“I’m excited for the chance to be a part of it,” she continued. “Obviously you can’t overlook their past and where they have come from, but you can’t just expect it to happen. You have to work for it and find that chemistry on the court and play together, and hopefully a national championship comes with all of that.”
The Bears are currently in the works of building just that. Through last Thursday, Concordia was off to a 9-1 start to the year, which had then ranked No. 2 in the country.
Coincidently, there is one team a little close to home for Sampson that has actually compiled a better mark – and it just happens to be the one she is currently playing for.
The Rebels moved to 10-1 on the year – and perfect 4-0 in Northwest Suburban Conference play – after surviving a five-set thriller at home vs. Centennial Sept. 19.
Sampson, as often has been the case, was a monster throughout.
She finished with a team-best 22 kills in the win – bringing her season total to 161 – and had three blocks, including a stuff with the Rebels leading the fifth set 9-8. Her block made it 10-8, and Champlin Park would go on to win that final set 15-13.
More impressively, she attacked from every angle of the court. She had kills from the middle, and from both outside hitting spots. He also sent a couple of lasers onto the floor from the back row, flashing the flexibility that made her skills such an attractive fit for Concordia.
“She is the type of kid that can play any position at any time,” said Champlin Park head coach John Yunker. “Really, it was her back row play and that versatility is really what sold them on her.”
The Bears late arrival into the Sampson sweepstakes was almost by accident. The Rebels attended Concordia’s team camp this summer. After two days of getting that sort of front row seat to witness her ability, they were in.
“It kind of fell into place that we went to that camp,” said Yunker. “It is really cool, because that is not your average college volleyball program. They are as successful as anybody in the country.”
From a high school perspective, Champlin Park hasn’t been that bad either. The Rebels 10-1 start is one of the best in school history, and its sets up for an intriguing couple of weeks ahead.
That begins this week, when the Rebels played host to Totino-Grace Sept. 23 and then Blaine Sept. 24.
There is also an Oct. 8 home match with undefeated Osseo lingering ahead, as well as tournaments at St. Michael-Albertville Oct. 11 and Chaska Oct. 19.
Those challenges gave extra credence to the resiliency Champlin Park flashed in rallying from a 2-1 deficit to beat Centennial last week, something Sampson said should do plenty of good moving forward.
“It is nice for us to have these close games so we can get used to battling and struggling and trying to get points back that we lost,” she said. “You saw that tonight. We have a lot of leaders on the court, and we figured things out and got going.”
Contact Nick Clark at [email protected]