Volleyball Area POY: Coleman's journeys have just begun

BROADLANDS — Mariah Coleman's path to the future didn't start last week. Signing a national letter of intent seven days ago to play volleyball at Indiana University wasn't the culmination of her trek, merely another step along the tedious route.

The process didn't even start when she was a sophomore, and an enterprising coach decided to switch her from pounding volleyballs with her right hand to her more dominant left hand.

It didn't even begin the summer before her freshman year, when Brad Dalton — about to embark on his first season as the Heritage High School coach — persuaded Coleman to return to a sport she thought she'd left behind.

The real beginning came around the time she was in second grade and already was standing out in a crowd. She was 4-foot-11 as a 7-year-old.

"From a young age I hung out with the right crowd," Coleman said. "They kept me on a straight path. College and getting good grades were what you did.

"I knew I wanted to go to college. Having goals and striving to meet your potential is second nature when you surround yourself with people like that."

A different path

As Coleman developed into an athlete of prominence — one who earned Player of the Year honors on The News-Gazette All-Area volleyball team — the inevitable recruiting letters followed. Administrators at Heritage, which has 156 students in the high school, wondered if they were simply courtesy form letters.

"I thought, 'Everybody gets these letters,' " athletic director Lori Archer said. "Then one (college) team was here. Then another, and another."

The coaches found Coleman despite her playing only a part of one club season and competing in a prep league not known for producing Division I prospects.

"How I got here doesn't happen very often," Coleman said. "It's a very rare case. I'm not saying it's impossible, but it's unrealistic."

Learning to make do

The same is true of her entire journey. Anyone with less wherewithal, less of a tenacious determination, would be just another statistic.

Raised by a single mother, Julitta Allen, who struggled to make ends meet, Coleman is not accustomed to lavish surroundings or even what many would consider essentials. Neither her nor her mother has a car.

"I can't lie," Coleman said. "When I was younger, I was extremely frustrated. It was so easy for everyone else to go to sporting events, or buy new clothes.

"As I grew up and matured, I realized money is not everything, and you can't focus your life around what others have and you don't."

Fueled by love

What Coleman has had — and still does — are gifts more precious than greenbacks.

"When I was younger, there were two brothers in the picture (living at home) and it was even tougher financially," Coleman said, "but my mother loves her kids unconditionally. It's never about what I accomplished in volleyball. She has worked hard to give us the life she'd want for us."

Now, it's Coleman's turn to seize the moment. That's why college volleyball is the next destination, not her final one.

"I have an opportunity," Coleman said, "to make a life I've always wanted for myself."

The five-year plan

While at Heritage, Coleman set single-match (22), single-season (380) and career kills records (949). For some individuals her age — she won't turn 18 until December — there might be an assumption that the prolific play will immediately continue in college.

Coleman knows what to expect.

"I'll redshirt my first year," she said. "That way I won't be trying to play catchup. I'm aware of the fact that I have a long way to go. I wanted coaches to do that (agree to a first-year redshirt)."

It also will benefit her long term. Coleman plans to seek a master's degree and will receive a fifth year with her scholarship.

Coming from a family where there have been no college graduates, Coleman said a diploma will be "a big deal."

She added: "My brothers (Barry Allen, who lives in Florida, and Todd Pittsley, who lives in North Carolina) keep tabs on me frequently. They have been so supportive. They say do this because we didn't."

Laying the groundwork

The truth is, if not for volleyball Coleman might not be preparing to attend an institution of higher learning.

"I could probably get a few (academic) scholarships and grants here and there," she said, "but without the (athletic) scholarship, I could not go to a school like Indiana."

While Coleman played the game, Brad Dalton played an important role in getting his star recognition.

"I made a lot of calls, sent a lot of emails and sent videos to most of the top 15 programs in the country," he said.

It was an uphill battle, Dalton acknowledged. "Most coaches spend their contact days at club tournaments (in the spring and summer) where they can see 30 kids."

The fact that Coleman can jump and touch 10 feet, 7 inches helped convince coaches to take a look at an athlete who holds Heritage's high-jump school record (5-2) in track.

Minnesota came for a visit. So did Michigan State. So did Indiana. So did others.

The guiding light

Coleman appreciates Dalton's efforts.

"I was never college savvy," she said. "I didn't know what constituted a good school or how to get in touch with them. He put in a lot of work. Without Coach Dalton it would have been a lot tougher. Without Coach Dalton I probably wouldn't have done volleyball in high school."

Though he had one marquee, high-profile player, Dalton never forgot that he was the coach of an entire team. Sometimes that put him at odds with Coleman, the Most Valuable Player on a regional championship team this year that tied a school record for single-season wins (24).

"I may still be the bad guy," he said. "I gave her structure. I didn't have a separate set of rules for her. If she didn't have a ride (to practice), I didn't feel sorry for her. I told her she needed to call and I'd find her a ride.

"She would call 10 minutes before practice started and I would always be at the gym."

Enduring trauma

Coleman's life endured more upheaval last month. On Oct. 14, her grandfather, 86-year-old Wallace Harris of Longview, died.

"He lived next door to my mom's house, and I was there every day," Coleman said. "He played a huge role in my life. He was a father figure for me.

"You have staples in your life that hold you together and losing him was tough."

Harris was a positive influence for a teenager who last saw her father, she said, about eight years ago and hasn't spoken to him by phone for almost two years.

"The way it affects me is more subconsciously," Coleman said. "I'm so used to it being me and my mom it would almost be weird if he were in the picture."

Coleman isn't optimistic she will ever have a relationship with her father.

"I sort of feel time has passed," she said. "What is done is done. I'm the child. I don't feel it's up to me. He could get in touch with me. At this point, it would be hard."

Putting others first

Coleman's obstacle-filled background is one reason so many people are rooting for her. Another is her attitude and personality.

"She comes to school every day and has a smile on her face," Archer said. "There's not anyone she doesn't get along with.

"She is like the mother hen, looking after everybody else. She wants everybody else to be happy. She is very humble, and that has to do with her upbringing. She has had a lot of hardships and has not expected good things to happen to her. She is like, 'I can't believe this is happening to me.' "

'Ignorant blissfulness'

"It has been a rough road," Coleman said.

Had she known in advance how unlikely it is for someone who grew up in a community of 250 (Longview) to earn a college scholarship without a year-round commitment to the sport, she might not have persevered.

"My biggest asset in all of this," she said, "is I went into every situation naive. If I'd known the odds, I probably would have doubted myself, and doubt doesn't allow you to achieve these things. It required an ignorant blissfulness."

Even now that her future is set, Coleman is not taking it easy and biding time until graduation. For the first time since entering high school, she decided to play basketball.

"A lot of people didn't approve of my decision, for fear of getting hurt," Coleman said, "but I can't sit for three months and get out of shape. Hard work is healthy for me and is creating a great work ethic.

"The basketball girls are great. I love surrounding myself with people who have goals and aspirations and will teach me things."

Scaling the heights

Coleman knows about goals and aspirations. She is moving closer to hers.

Her career path is "to own my own business," she said. Specifically, "I'd like to own a restaurant and a salon and spa," she said.

Oh yes, there's something else she'd covet. It's a passion which is as strong as volleyball.

"I love 5-inch heels," she said. "If I could hoard something, that would be it. You can be self-conscious being tall. I work on my posture. A lot of people stare, but for the most part I like it. If I weren't tall I wouldn't be as good as I am at the sport I love."

Players of the Year
YEAR    NAME    SCHOOL    POS.
2011    Mariah Coleman    Heritage    MH
2010    Morgan Leach    Centennial    MH
2009    Cori Harris    Centennial    OH
2008    Alexis Braghini    Centennial    MH
2007    Lucy Coleman     Monticello    MH
2006    Ali Omahen     Schlarman    S
2005     Kylie McCulley    Clinton     OH
2004     Kylie McCulley    Clinton    OH
2003     Amber McKean     CPCI     MH
2002     Melissa David    Champaign Central     MH
2001     Carly Hill    Monticello     OH
2000     Carly Hill    Monticello     OH
1999     Julie Leman     Champaign Central     S
1998    Jenn Rousey     Champaign Central    OH
1997     Kate Hill    Monticello    OH
1996     Heather Wilson    Rantoul     S
1995     Amanda Ennis    Champaign Central     OH
1994     Sigele Overstreet     Champaign Central    OH
1993    Lori Greenwood     Champaign Central     OH
1992    Missy Erixon     Tuscola    S
1991    Missy Erixon    Tuscola    S
1990    Melanie Ward     Prairie Central     MH
1989    Jane Prasse    Hooopeston-East Lynn     MH
1988    Mindy Thompson    Shiloh     OH
1987    Jill Doty     Hoopeston-East Lynn    OH

34th News-Gazette All-Area First Team
NAME    SCHOOL    YR.    HT.    POS.    COACH
Jessica Allhands    Watseka    Sr.    5-11    OH    Krista Pufahl
Emma Cabutti    Mahomet-Seymour    Sr.    5-8    OH    Lori Clark
Megan Casagrande    St. Thomas More    Sr.    5-11    MH    Erika Tock
Mariah Coleman    Heritage    Sr.    6-2    MH    Brad Dalton
Rachel Jones    Centennial    Jr.    6-0    MH    Stan Bergman
Amber Meyer    Tri-County    Jr.    5-8    S    Drew Robertson
Shannon Siuts    St. Thomas More    Sr.    5-5    S    Erika Tock
Kelly Wachtel    Centennial    Sr.    6-2    OH    Stan Bergman
Jaelyn Westfield    Champaign Central    Jr.    6-0    MH    Evan Hook
Kaitlyn Zelhart    Blue Ridge    Sr.    6-0    MH    Evan Miles

34th News-Gazette All-Area Second Team
PLAYER    SCHOOL    YR.    HT.    POS.
Alina Altmyer    Champaign Central    Sr.    5-8    OH
Lizzy Barnard    Tri-County    So.    5-9    OH
Jacy Cochran    Fisher    Sr.    5-9    MH
ChaQuera Cross    Rantoul    Sr.    5-6    L    
Josey Fruhling    St. Joseph-Ogden    Sr.    5-7    OH
Kat Grimes    Watseka    Jr.    5-5    S    
Kara Johnson    Centennial    Jr.    5-10    OH
Samantha Siddens    Bismarck-Henning    Sr.    5-9    OH
Jenny Srikant    Urbana    Sr.    5-9    S    
Lexi Wallen    St. Thomas More    Fr.    5-10    OH

All-Area Special Mention
PLAYER    SCHOOL    YR.    POS.
Audrey Aeilts    Champaign Central    Sr.    S
Tina Aguirre    Rantoul    Sr.    OH
Makenzie Baker    Oakwood    Sr.    OH
Jamie Blue    Urbana Uni High    Sr.    OH
Bailey Bryant    Bismarck-Henning    Sr.    MH
Lauren Cloyd    Centennial    Jr.    MH
Julia Cohan    Arthur    Jr.    MH
Elise Dahlke    Mahomet-Seymour    Jr.    OH
Kailyn Demith    Champaign Central    Jr.    OH
Hannah Fink    Fisher    Sr.    OH
Michaleen Forman    Danville    Sr.    MH
Hannah Gaylord    St. Joseph-Ogden    Sr.    OH
Hayley Gray    Watseka    So.    MH
Jessica Greer    First Baptist    Sr.    OH
Laura Gross    Schlarman    Fr.    S/MH
Sabrina Hinton    Bement    Jr.    MH
Emma Hoyer    Urbana Uni High    Jr.    MH
Kaitlyn Hunt    Monticello    Jr.    L
Mikayla Jones    DeLand-Weldon    Jr.    MH
Meghan Lowry    Arthur Okaw Christian    Sr.    MH
Abbie Magrini    Mahomet-Seymour    Sr.    L
Sydni Meunier    Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley    Sr.    L
Morgan Neisslie    Cerro Gordo    Sr.    L
Natalie Neukomm    CPCI    Sr.    L
Kortnie Schroeder    Paxton-Buckley-Loda    Jr.    OH
Kaitie Shaw    Westville    Jr.    OH
Ashley Tabb    Arthur    Jr.    L
Taylor Wienke    Heritage    So.    S
Kaitie Wildman    Atwood-Hammond    So.    L
Jordan Wheeler    Blue Ridge    Sr.    OH

All-Area Honorable Mention
(School-by-school listing)
ARCOLA — Cara Edwards, Jr., MH; Taylor Edwards, Fr., MH
ARGENTA-OREANA — Cali Melton, Sr., S; Hannah Millington, Sr., MH
ARMSTRONG-POTOMAC — Shayla Boen, Sr., S; Rachel Miles, So., MH; Shanon Reardon, Sr., OH; Erika Sieberns, Jr., MH
ARTHUR — Sherelle Coller, So., S
ARTHUR OKAW CHRISTIAN — Kristi Gingerich, Sr., S
ATWOOD-HAMMOND — Elaine Davis, Sr., OH
BEMENT — Samantha O’Brien, So., S; Taylor Wegrich, So., OH
BISMARCK-HENNING — Taylor Ellis, Jr., S; Morgan Gerbsch, Jr., L; Lauren McKenzie, Jr., S; Maranda Witty, Jr., OH
BLUE RIDGE — Emily Zelhart, Fr., S
CENTENNIAL — Lindsay Rogan, Jr., L; Allie Shannon, Jr., MH; Maddie Weldon, Jr., S; Jennifer Wise, Sr., OH
CERRO GORDO — Emily Richardson, Sr., S
CHAMPAIGN CENTRAL — Mia McDonald, Jr., S
CHRISMAN — Brett Bishop, So., MH; Daniele Hoult, Sr., OH; Shelby Ross, Sr., S; Paige Thevenin, Sr., MH
CHRIST LUTHERAN — Andrea DeBella, So., S
CLINTON — Morgan Hickman, Jr., S; Shanae Ritter, Sr., L
CPCI — Hillary Hines, So., MH; Dana Silski, Sr., OH; Maria Wilkening, Jr., S
DANVILLE —  Alexus Jimson-Miller, Jr., OH; Shawneis Jones, Sr., MH; Morgan King, Sr., OH
DeLAND-WELDON — Rowan Crozier, So., S; Brittany Roberts, Sr., L
FIRST BAPTIST — Rachel Wells, Jr., MH
FISHER — Hannah Fink, Sr., OH; Aubrey Pettenger, Sr., L
GEORGETOWN-RIDGE FARM — Catie Brandt, Jr., S/OH; Erika Briggs, Sr., OH; Kelsey Buckman, Fr., S/OH
GIBSON CITY-MELVIN-SIBLEY —  Erica Baillie, Sr., S
HERITAGE — Cedar Richardson, So., OH; Stephanie Sanderson, Jr., L; Jenna Wyant, Sr., OH
HOOPESTON AREA — Molly Crawford, Sr., OH; Devin McFadden, Jr., S; Beth Weston, Sr., MH
IROQUOIS WEST — Courtney Conrad, Jr., S; Haley Pence, Sr., MH
JUDAH CHRISTIAN — Brooke Childers, Fr., OH; Brenna Fouts, Sr., S; Emily Gewirtz, So., L; Christina Rummery, Sr., MH
LeROY — Hailey Fritcher, Sr., L; Stephanie Howell, Sr., MH
LOVINGTON — Kayelene Goodbear, Jr., S
MAHOMET-SEYMOUR — Kristen Belyea, Jr., S; Hannah Charter, Jr., OH; Makenzie Hartman, Sr., OH
MILFORD — Kinsey Knauth, Jr., S; Ashlen Portwood, Sr., MH; Kelsey Thrush, Sr., OH
MONTICELLO — Elise Pontious, Jr., S; Jaimey Watrous, Sr., S
OAKWOOD — Peyton Jones, Fr., MH; Ashley Wahlfeldt, Sr., S
PAXTON-BUCKLEY-LODA — Kayla Cowan, Jr., S; Catlyn Ekstrom, Sr., OH; Kandace Hofer, Jr., OH
PRAIRIE CENTRAL — Ally Krenz, Sr., OH; Kate Kupferschmid, So., L
RANTOUL — Heather Nigh, Sr., OH; Hannah Wascher, Jr., MH
RIDGEVIEW — Megan Jones, Sr., MH
SALT FORK — Emilie McFadden, So., MH; Toria Plotner, Jr., OH; Kirsten Thornsbrough, Jr., S
SCHLARMAN — Ella Black, Jr., OH; Janelle Marion, So., S/OH; Jordan Marganski, So., S/MH
SHILOH — Hilary Rhode, Sr., OH
ST. JOSEPH-OGDEN — Courtney Learned, Sr., OH
ST. THOMAS MORE — Ally Heffernan, Sr., OH; Brooke Schmidt, Sr., L
SULLIVAN — Paige Neuhauser, Sr., OH
TRI-COUNTY — Heidi Dague, Fr., OH; Autumn Meyer, Jr., L; Kyla Skinner, Jr., OH; Abby Smith, So., OH
TUSCOLA — Sam Kohlbecker, Sr., S; Mackenzie Seip, Jr., OH
UNITY — Madison Herbert, Sr., MH; Masey Robeck, Sr., S/OH
URBANA — Christie Stark, Sr., OH
URBANA UNI HIGH — Hannah Johlas, Sr., OH; Jo Ellen Machesky, Jr., L; Juliana Trach, Jr., S
VILLA GROVE — Amanda McCollom, Sr., MH
WATSEKA — Raychell Poplawski, Sr., L
WESTVILLE — Mikayla Rolinitis, So.

Area standings

Big 12 Conference
SCHOOL    CONF.    OVERALL
Centennial    8-1    34-4
Normal Community    8-1    20-17
Bloomington    7-2    20-16
Cham. Central    5-4    23-14
Mattoon    5-4    22-9
Normal West    5-4    14-20
Danville    3-6    13-18
Urbana    3-6    16-18-1
MacArthur    1-8    11-17
Eisenhower    0-9    1-28

Corn Belt Conference
SCHOOL    CONF.    OVERALL
Bloomington CC    14-0    31-4
Normal U-High    12-2    32-7
Mahomet-Seymour    10-4    19-11
Eureka    7-7    20-10
Olympia    7-7    15-18
Rantoul    3-11    9-20
Prairie Central    2-12    8-16
Pontiac    1-13    4-23

East Central Illinois Conference
SCHOOL    CONF.    OVERALL
DeLand-Weldon    7-0    17-12
Decatur Lutheran    6-1    15-19
Urbana Uni High    5-2    19-11
Judah Christian    4-3    12-18
Bloomington Cornerstone    3-4    10-13
Decatur Christian    2-5    6-15
Christ Lutheran    1-6    5-21
Normal Calvary    0-7    2-22

Heart of Illinois Conference
SCHOOL    CONF.    OVERALL
Deer Creek-Mack.    11-1    27-6
Heyworth    11-1    28-4
Blue Ridge    9-3    23-8
El Paso/Gridley    8-4    16-11
Lexington    8-4    23-14
Tri-Valley    8-4    24-9
Fisher    7-5    18-14
Fieldcrest    4-8    19-15
Ridgeview    4-8    12-20
Tremont    3-9    9-19
Gibson City-MS    2-10    10-19
LeRoy    2-10    10-23-1
Flanagan/Cornell    1-11    3-25

Little Okaw Valley Conference
SCHOOL    CONF.    OVERALL
Tri-County    11-0    33-4
Arthur    10-1    24-7
Heritage    9-2    24-12
Arcola    6-5    13-18
Atwood-Hammond    6-5    12-18
Bement    6-5    9-15
Cerro Gordo    5-6    11-17
Martinsville    5-6    12-17
Okaw Valley    4-7    5-21
Shiloh    3-8    3-17
Lovington    1-10    1-17
Villa Grove    0-11    0-27

Okaw Valley Conference
SCHOOL    CONF.    OVERALL
St. Teresa    11-0    35-5
Warrensburg-Latham    9-2    21-8
Clinton    8-3    22-15
Monticello    8-3    17-13
Shelbyville    7-4    22-14
Tuscola    6-5    13-13
Sullivan    4-7    14-18
Argenta-Oreana    3-8    13-14
Central A&M    3-8    13-13
Meridian    3-8    14-13
Maroa-Forsyth    2-9    10-18
Unity    2-9    7-25

Sangamon Valley Conference
SCHOOL    CONF.    OVERALL
St. Thomas More    7-0    17-15
St. Joseph-Ogden    6-1    26-5
Paxton-Buckley-Loda    5-2    19-9
Watseka    4-3    32-4
CPCI    3-4    18-15-1
Iroquois West    2-5    11-21
Clifton Central    1-6    6-19-3
Momence    0-7    4-23-2

Vermilion Valley Conference
SCHOOL    CONF.    OVERALL
Bismarck-Henning    13-0    25-2
Chrisman    11-2    20-7
Schlarman    11-2    18-12-1
Armstrong-Potomac    8-5    16-14
Oakwood    6-7    11-18
Westville    6-7    10-17
Milford    5-8    13-18
Salt Fork    3-10    8-19
Hoopeston Area    2-11    4-22
Georgetown-Ridge Farm    0-13    0-20

Others
Arthur Okaw Christian        28-7
First Baptist        20-13-1

N-G Top 10
TEAM (PREVIOUS)    W-L    COMMENT
1. Centennial (1)    34-4    Three of top four are juniors
2. Watseka (4)    32-4    Two of top four are seniors
3. Tri-County (3)    33-4    Top four are all underclassmen
4. STM (5)    17-15    Three of top four are seniors
5. Bismarck-H. (2)    25-2    Two of top four are seniors
6. Central (6)    23-14    Two of top four are seniors
7. St. Joseph-O. (7)    26-5    Top four are all seniors
8. Blue Ridge (8)    23-8    Two of top four are seniors
9. PBL (9)    19-9    Three of top four are juniors
10. Mahomet-S (10)    19-11    Two of top four are seniors
 

Categories (3):Prep Sports, Volleyball, Sports

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