Only a freshman, White living her dream
Sam Tapper — Sports Writer
Joining a defending champion can be a daunting task, and getting acclimated quickly is not much easier, but volleyball freshman Ella White has quickly adjusted to her new environment and has become an asset to her team.
White comes to Southern from Gurnee, Ill., located just off Lake Michigan and about 45 minutes northwest of Chicago. Having played volleyball for most of her life, it was always a dream of hers to play in college. Her recruitment process was a quick one, and once White got to Southern for the first time, she said she knew she wanted to be here.
“It was really last minute, just a quick visit out,” said White of her Southern recruitment. “I was talking to [head coach Lisa Barbaro] and I really liked her. It was basically like, ‘can you fly out next week?’ and I was like, ‘yeah, I can,’ so then I came, and I loved it. I loved everyone on the team, and I loved the school, so it was for me.”
White said she always knew that she wanted to “get outside of Illinois” when it came to attending college, to encourage a fresh start for her in a new setting. Though she was from far away, her coach saw a lot of potential in her as a high school player, even if only by highlight tape.
“For me, it was her general athleticism, I saw a lot of growth potential in her as a player,” said Barbaro. “There’s definitely areas of improvement, but I admired that she hits a heavy ball, she has a great serve, jumps very well, has a good block-jump, so, for me, it was more of the growth potential — not necessarily where she currently is, but where I can kind of get her to in four years. I just knew she’d be able to become a dominant player.”
Since her arrival, White has gotten the chance to establish herself as a contending force in the Owls’ lineup early. Though she is only a freshman, White has started each match for the Owls and solidified her name among the conference leaders in multiple categories.
Through 18 games so far, White has played in 60 sets and recorded 155 kills, making an average of 2.58 kills per set — enough to lead her team and rank her 15th in the entire NE10. Needless to say, White is already one of the Owls’ top contributors.
“I think it’s awesome. I think it’s so cool,” said White. “I’m just proud of myself and just happy that I got the opportunity to be playing as a freshman and that my coach really took a chance on me.”
Aside from her work on the court, Barbaro credits White’s positive, humorous and easygoing personality as a benefit to the locker room environment, regardless of the circumstances. Those personality traits have led to strong relationships with her teammates, including one with team captain Jen Dawson.
“I’d say she’s one of my little sisters on the team,” said Dawson. “Every game you see something she does a little bit differently and a little bit better, and I think that at the end of her four years she’s going to be a really good player.”
White’s Southern career has only just begun, and as she matures, the expectations will only get higher. However, expectations do not seem to deter her, rather they seem to encourage her to become even better.
“I just feel like I came in and there were already high expectations right away,” said White. “We all are here for each other; we’re a part of something that’s really big and special. Not everyone gets to do it, and just being chosen to play for a team that did win a championship, I feel like you have to come in and give it everything you have. It’s been fun.”