Belleville West senior Kaylee Hanger has given a verbal commitment to play at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County beginning in the 2018 season.
A first team all-area and all-Southwestern Conference selection a year ago as an outside hitter, the 5-foot-9 Hanger made an unofficial visit to UMBC last year then attended the Retrievers summer volleyball camp last month. It didn’t take Hanger long to decide after coach Ian Blanchard made the scholarship offer.
“Why decide now? Because I didn’t want to make the coaches wait after they offered me the scholarship,” Hanger said. “I made an unofficial visit about a year ago and just fell in love with the place. The coaches, the players, the location.
“I have traveled several places playing club volleyball and been out east a few times, but I had never been to the Northeast before. This just feels like this is the place for me.”
Hanger, who led Belleville West in kills a year ago with 326, also looked at Loyola University Chicago, Southeast Missouri State, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, and San Diego State. She will major in mathematics at UMBC.
Although she plays as an outside hitter for Belleville West in the high school season, Hanger will be a libero (defensive specialist) at the college level. She played libero for her club team, which is coached by her older sister Abby Hanger.
Kaylee Hanger also played sand volleyball for the first time this summer and along with her playing partner, Elise Smith of O’Fallon, advanced to the national finals.
UMBC is a member of the NCAA Division I America East Conference. The Retrievers assistant coach is former Belleville West standout Katelyn Panzau who is entering her fifth year with the program. Panzau, who played for coach Charles Rodman at West, recommended Hanger to head coach Ian Blanchard.
“I would say that UMBC is one of the top teams in the conference and after playing and working out with the team this summer at camp, there is no doubt in my mind that we can qualify for the NCAA Tournament,” Hanger said.
Hanger said the fact that she plays libero for her club team should make the transition to the college game easier.
“I’ve played and trained at libero and that’s where I am most comfortable playing. At 5-9, I’m a little small to play on the outside at the D-1 level,” Hanger said. “There are a lot of things I have to work on and improve upon. I know I have to get stronger and quicker, much quicker. The pace of the game is so much faster at the college level.”