By Kevin Colley
In life, it’s all about being a pioneer when it comes to one’s own path.
Brooklyn Sullivan certainly didn’t waste any time taking advantage of the opportunity. The South Webster volleyball standout signed a full-ride scholarship to play college volleyball with NCAA Division II Malone University on Wednesday evening to become the sixth Jeep to sign a college letter of intent in 2017.
For Sullivan, the step is certainly one that she has been looking forward to for a while.
“I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished,” Sullivan said. “It’s a big step in my life, and I’m just excited to see what will happen in the future. I felt comfortable (at Malone). I felt like I was at home.”
And while all of the signings have been special for South Webster volleyball head coach Darcee Claxon, this particular one features an individual that is as special as they come.
“It’s exciting,” Claxon said. “You see these kids grow up in front of your eyes, so it’s really special when they accomplish a feat like that. I’ve known Brooklyn forever. You could tell from the time that she was younger that she had god-given talent, but also, the drive, the passion, and the work ethic necessary to succeed. I’m excited to see all of those things culminate into this.”
While success came quickly from an individual standpoint for Sullivan, the team results were a little slower to come by, as the Jeeps struggled to .500 marks and district semifinal defeats over her first two seasons at the high school level.
“We struggled with team chemistry,” Claxon said. “However, we were able to figure out some of those issues, and the girls just gelled. They put the team above anything else, and success followed.”
That improvement, which was evident during Sullivan’s junior year when the Lady Jeeps took a set from a talented Trimble squad, really showed in spades during a thrilling postseason run this past fall.
After entering the Division IV, Jackson I District Tournament ranked as the No. 5 overall seed, the Jeeps won their sectional by defeating Western in straight sets.
Then, after falling behind two sets to none against the defending district champions in Waterford, South Webster stormed back and, after falling in the first and second sets by counts of 25-22 and 25-21, knocked out the district favorite by taking home set victories of 29-27, 25-16, and 15-11 to take a thrilling five-set match. The Lady Jeeps then followed with another thrilling five-set victory over Clay — winning the first, third, and fifth sets by scores of 25-21, 25-14, and 15-9 — to advance to the Division IV Lancaster Regional.
“It’s been a great experience here at South Webster,” Sullivan said. “We had a great season this year. I love all of my teammates and I loved playing with them.”
And true to form, Sullivan was right in the heart of all of the success.
For her career, the middle hitter finished with over 1,000 career kills to become just the third South Webster player in school history to accomplish the feat. Hoskins also finished in the top-five in school history in kills, blocks, assists, and aces en route to obtaining All-SOC, All-District, and Second-Team All-Ohion honors to round out a fantastic career for the Lady Jeeps.
“Brooklyn’s in the top five all-time in several different categories,” Claxon said. “However, she’s also been a difference-maker on the defensive end for us. It certainly wasn’t just her attacking that made a difference for us. She’s just a great all-around player who is very smart and has worked hard to hone in on those skills. She’s a great server, and again, that comes from the practice that she’s put into that area of her game.”
Claxon’s point was evident in the thrilling five-set victory over Clay in the district finals, where the senior fended off a tough Lady Panther challenge by contributing on the service end of the spectrum to help lead South Webster to the district title.
“When we played Clay in the (Division IV, Jackson I) District Finals, Brooklyn was a catalyst from the service line because she was able to hit the holes available on the floor, and came up with several aces because of that,” Claxon said. “That’s hard work paying off and that comes from all of those hours in the gym practicing on her game.”
At Malone, Sullivan is expected to be a key cog as a middle hitter for Tanya Hockman’s program. Hockman, who has been the head coach of the Pioneers’ volleyball program since the Fall of 1999, has posted a 424-278 record during her tenure at Malone. Hockman posted 12 winning seasons in a 13-year stretch from 1999 to 2012.
“Brooklyn has the height and the natural ability,” Claxon said. “She just moves like a middle. That’s her best position, so I’m glad that she’ll get to continue to play that position at the collegiate level.”
With a successful high school career in the books and a host of friends and family that she’ll be leaving behind at the end of the school year, Sullivan’s signing with Malone is certainly bittersweet.
However, both Claxon and Sullivan are confident about the transition process — because Sullivan has proven herself as a person that is worthy of taking on such a transition.
“It is bittersweet for the girls and for me, as well,” Claxon said. “Being from a small school, it is like a family here. I spend a whole lot of time with these kids — almost as much time with them in the fall as I do with my own kids — so it’s bittersweet. However, I know that Brooklyn will be fine. She knows how to play at a competitive level, she knows what hard work looks like, and because of that, she’s going to be successful. For me, there’s no greater joy than watching one of our players go on to play at a higher level. It means that we’re doing something right. I’m just very excited for her.”
“It is kind of sad,” Sullivan said. “(South Webster and playing volleyball here) is all I’ve known for the last four years. However, I’m sure that I’m going to make new friends at Malone, too, and I’m excited for that.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930