BELDING — When Rick Schroeder was hired as Aquinas College’s women’s volleyball coach, Johanna McCully was the first person he wanted to recruit.
“Right now, we’re graduating six seniors, so the team got a little smaller,” Schroeder said. “So, in 2017, we’re definitely looking to build our roster up with not only great athletes, but great individuals, too. We definitely think that Johanna offers both, exceptionally.”
McCully, 18, a senior at Belding, signed a letter of intent Wednesday to play volleyball with the Aquinas Saints and study nursing at the college, which is just as important to McCully.
“The nursing program at Aquinas through Detroit Mercy is an amazing opportunity. Rick and Tyler (Vanheukelom, assistant coach) are amazing coaches,” she said. “So the opportunity to play volleyball but also get a top-notch education that I’m looking for, I really couldn’t turn that away.”
Last year, Aquinas went 17-13 overall and qualified for its league playoffs, falling to Davenport University.
In her senior season with Belding, McCully, one of the leaders of the team, collected 321 kills, 63 blocks, 460 digs, 184 service points and 19 aces.
McCully has plenty of room to grow as a skilled volleyball player still, according to Mikayla Linebaugh, McCully’s high school volleyball coach who retired after season.
“I’m excited for her. It’s a big commitment,” she said. “I think she’s got a lot of growth. She’s definitely going to grow. I’m excited to see what she does.”
McCully helped Belding finish with a 24-10-2 overall record and winning a district title this past season.
Linebaugh said McCully was a big piece of that success.
“She’s just a great kid. I’ve had her for four years on varsity. As a freshman, she really soaked everything in,” Linebaugh said. “She was trained very well with the leaders that were ahead of her. And, in turn, she was doing the same by the time she was a junior and senior, so that was pretty cool to watch.”
Schroeder said McCully is a “don’t judge a book by its cover” kind of player.
“With all our recruits, we try to find something special about each one of them. At first glance, Johanna doesn’t blow you away with her size, but once you watch her play, I think it takes about 30 seconds to realize that she’s something special,” he said. “She gets off the ground a lot higher than most of us do and hits the ball a lot harder than most of us do. There’s definitely some special qualities about her that I’ve observed very quickly.”
With as many positions opening up next year on the Saints team, Schroeder said McCully has a good chance to earn a key spot.
Other than her education, McCully said she plans to focus on just having fun and building solid relationships, just as she did at Belding.
“I want to have fun, but also want to improve as a player and person. Being involved in volleyball will help me ultimately with school because it’ll keep me on track,” she said. “I learned a lot from Belding. So many amazing people I’ve learned from and so much I’ve learned. Hard work pays off. The harder you work the bigger payout you’re going to get.
“Obviously, I wasn’t blessed with height that I would love to have, but I have worked hard to get where I’m at,” she added.