Big hits, kicks and jumps
Recent Highland High School graduate Claire Diercks has had a busy winter and spring that recently ended with her Blue Steel Volleyball club team making a big name for itself.
Diercks, an outside hitter, recently helped Blue Steel’s 18U club finish ninth in the 18U USA Division of the Girls Junior National Championships held the weekend of April 29 in Dallas.
The national tournament appearance was the third consecutive one for Diercks, as she played for the Illinois HP club the past two campaigns before competing with Blue Steel during her freshman year at Highland.
“We worked really hard and at the beginning of the season. We had a ton of injuries and a lot of setbacks,” Diercks said.
Getting a bid into the qualifying tournament for the junior national championships was difficult.
“We didn’t get a bid at our (initial) qualifier as we fell one point short and the Gateway Bid Event we earned our bid by playing nine games back-to-back with no breaks because it was a double elimination (tournament),” Diercks said.
The Gateway Bid Event, held at the Americas Center in St. Louis the weekend of Feb. 24, tested the club to their deepest limits and left Diercks feeling invigorated.
“To work our way up from the bottom (of the field) was pretty amazing,” Diercks said.
At the Gateway Event, Blue Steel qualified in the American Division.
The Blue Steel, coached by Natalie Ott, later strengthened its bid by playing in the Mideast Qualifier Tournament in Indianapolis on April 22-24.
“At the Mideast Qualifier, we qualified in the USA Division, which is higher, so we upped our bid (position),” Diercks said.
“It was a lot of hard work to make it (through) and depending on the day and how we were feeling when it came time to get down to (making) the bid, we all knew that we wanted it and we had to figure out a way to do it.”
Since the end of April, Diercks has been focusing her attention on transitioning from Highland High School and preparing for life and volleyball at McKendree University this fall.
Diercks has been working with personal trainer Mark Keller from Phoenix Rehabilitation Services in Highland.
“I’m working with him two to three days a week just lifting, conditioning and strengthing just to build muscle and to be completely ready for McKendree’s season,” Diercks said. “I want to get better and be ready to see what I can contribute when I get there (to McKendree).”