Division I Arkansas-Pine Bluff women's volleyball coach Kyetta May is hoping to develop a recruiting pipeline to the metro-east, relying on her strong ties to the area.
A Lincoln High graduate from East St. Louis who played at Alabama A&M, May has signed two more metro-east players to join the two already on the Lions' roster.
The new additions are Althoff High senior defensive specialist Jade Sanlin and Edwardsville's 6-foot senior right-side hitter Lauren Corby .
"Being familiar with the area, both Althoff and Edwardsville High School are cream-of-the-crop type of schools in the St. Louis area," said May, who coached at Clayton (Mo.) High, Harris-Stowe State and was a three-time Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Coach of the Year at Kentucky State before coming to Arkansas-Pine Bluff. "Being from the area and having some success in my years at Kentucky State played a huge part in being able to recruit from the St. Louis metropolitan area."
Sanlin battled back to earn a scholarship after missing her entire sophomore season because of a knee injury. Originally an outside hitter, she switched to defensive specialist.
"That sophomore year I really lost contact with the people that had been recruiting me or were recruiting me the most," Sanlin said. "It was really hard to transition because I switched my position and I loved hitting. I adapted quickly, but when it was my junior year it was hard for me to get recruited again because all the scholarships had filled up. I was thankful there were still a couple schools out there."
Sanlin also had offers from Marshall, Nicholls State, Lewis University and Tennessee State.
"As I visited most of the schools, I felt more at home at Arkansas-Pine Bluff," said Sanlin, who led Althoff with 193 digs and 192 serves received. "(Former teammate) Whitney Harris was there and the coach is from East St. Louis. The girls really made me feel more at home."
May thinks Sanlin can make an immediate impact with her program.
"She's an all-around great student athlete. She's the total package," May said. "She's a great student first and foremost, which made me really interested in her. She's also a serious student of the sport of volleyball. She's had some great training, played for a great club team and comes from a great volleyball background."
Sanlin found a lot to like about the Arkansas school.
"They were really competitive, their workout program is outrageous," she said. "I felt like I would just fit right into the program and she's recruiting people from all over, from Canada to Brazil."
Althoff coach Sara Thomas said Sanlin's ability to persevere through a position change and the injury rehab were impressive.
"She made a transition from being an outside hitter to a defensive specialist-libero and really overcame a lot of things," Thomas said. "I'm really proud of her because by her senior year she was a standout libero. She worked extremely hard to get this scholarship and had a lot of people behind her.
"She's a great athlete and will do great at the next level, too. She may have missed hitting, but really excelled as a defensive specialist. You would not have been able to tell it was not her position all along."
Sanlin and Corby play for the same club volleyball team, St. Louis High Performance.
Corby had 36 kills and 27 blocks for the Tigers last season.
"She has a lot of potential and she's very athletic," May said. "I think she'll be one of those kids that wherever I'm willing to put here, she'll be willing to go. I can see that she has tenacity and I think she's going to turn out to be a really good player."
Althoff graduate Whitney Harris was third on the 13-23 UAPB team with 196 kills last season as a freshman. Belleville East graduate Alexis Smith, also a freshman, had 35 kills.
Another local player who starred at Arkansas-Pine Bluff was former Cahokia offensive tackle Terron Armstead, now in the NFL with the New Orleans Saints.