Brittani Tabbert has the fever.
She reached the pinnacle of her high school career in November and now she's sick of waiting to graduate, but she got a taste of the future on Tuesday as she committed to play volleyball at Lincoln Land College.
“I feel awesome,” Tabbert said. “I don't know, I'm just ready to start college and get out of high school.”
The senior outside hitter went where she never thought she'd go, in November. She was a key starter on the Stew-Stras volleyball team that finished second in Class 1A, ending the season on the game's biggest stage — Redbird Arena at Illinois State University in Normal.
“Nowadays, I think back and I'm like, 'Oh my gosh, did we seriously go to state?'” Tabbert said. “I never thought that would ever happen, but I'm glad that's something we accomplished.”
The state volleyball run was the peak of Tabbert's high school career. It's hard to top, but Tabbert said she hopes to have similar success at the college level.
Tabbert is Stew-Stras head coach Ronda Schlechte's first college recruit, making Tuesday's signing ceremony all the more special.
Tuesday marked the end of a long recruiting process for Lincoln Land head coach Jim Dietz, who knew Tabbert since she was in junior high.
Tabbert led the Comets this season using her athleticism as an outside hitter, which Dietz said he recognized when he first saw her in as an eighth grader.
“I got to see Brittani play and said, 'Wow, that's somebody to keep watching,'” Dietz said.
Her kept in touch with his latest signee over the last four years, which made the recruitment process easier once he realized the Loggers needed an outside hitter.
“When you talk to somebody that long, you get comfortable with what they're capable of as a person,” Dietz said. “Her work ethic is what we're looking for in the program.”
It's a work ethic that Schlechte said she instilled in the team every day in practice this season and one that Tabbert showed over and over again.
“I always taught the girls they're never good enough, they still need to keep working,” Schlechte said. “I hope that carries over into college and she can play a big role out on the college court.”
Schlechte said it'll be important for Tabbert to recognized how much better the competition is in college. Colleges get the best from a crop of high school athletes, Schlechte said.
Tabbert played with the best this season, especially in the Class 1A state final four in Normal. Add the rigorous regular season schedule Schlechte assembled, Dietz said Tabbert has seen it all.
“She played in matches that matter this year, against good teams,” Dietz said. “They beat St. Anthony, they went to state, they beat the Kansas (Tri-County) team.”
It was an unbelievable ride for Tabbert's team and left her wanting more, in the future.
“I feel like I've accomplished something not many people get to accomplish,” Tabbert said. “It's something that motivates me to do a whole lot better.”
Courtney Schultz signs with Kaskaskia
The weather pushed it back five days, but Courtney Schultz finally put pen to paper and signed a letter of intent to play softball at Kaskaskia College next year.
The senior said she experience a range of emotions, from nerves to excitement, leading up to Tuesday's signing ceremony, but she's happy her immediate future is decided.
“It just feels like home (at Kaskaskia) and a lot of my friends are going there already,” Schultz said. “I'm excited to play and it's a good program.”
Kaskaskia head coach Torey Crowell said she's excited to add another player from the Cobras club team that Schultz plays on. There are three other former Cobras on the team.
Crowell said Schultz's ability on the field goes far beyond physical skills.
“She knows the game,” Crowell said. “She knows what the next play is going to be. You have to know when you can go to the next base. Courtney does that.”
Crowell said Schultz will primarily play at third base for Kaskaskia, which is right where Schultz said she wants to play.
“I'm going to work hard at it,” Schultz said. “I have a good arm from third to first.”
Alex McNamee can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 123, or firstname.lastname@example.org.