After helping her undefeated Bellarmine Prep volleyball team knock off Kentwood on Saturday afternoon to claim the Class 4A West Central District championship, senior outside hitter Courtney Schwan was hungry for more.
Despite racking up 21 kills and seven aces in the match, the three-time 4A Narrows League player of the year couldn’t bring herself to call it a day and go home to soak in her latest accomplishment.
Just hours after the win, she was out playing pickup volleyball at a local gymnasium.
“She loves the game so much,” Bellarmine Prep coach Jody DeGroot said. “She’s always looking for a game.”
That insatiable desire and dedication to mastering all the facets of the game has Schwan — who will sign with the University of Washington on Wednesday — playing at a level few prep players from the South Sound have reached over the past 20 years.
For a third consecutive year, Schwan is The News Tribune’s All-Area volleyball player of the year.
The list of area superstar outside hitters who’ve left a timeless stamp on the prep scene and gone onto bigger and better things is short: Fife’s Sarah Silvernail (1992), River Ridge’s Jameka Stevens (1994-96) and Puyallup’s Christal Morrison (2001-03).
Most agree Schwan deserves to
be mentioned in that select company.
“I know she’ll certainly be a player that Bellarmine will remember for a long time,” DeGroot said.
Silvernail went on to become the all-time kills leader at Washington State University and was inducted into the school’s athletic hall of fame in 2002. Stevens had a solid career at California after transferring from Hawaii, and Morrison was a four-time All-American and is the all-time kills leader at the University of Washington.
Schwan has a skill set of the aforementioned trio, as well the ability to raise the level of play on the floor.
“I look at her in the timeouts to see what she’s doing; talking to other teammates, really (be) in tune with what they’re doing,” said Puyallup High coach Tony Batinovich, who coached Morrison in high school. “That’s what separates the great players.”
Then there are the many physical gifts. Schwan’s outstanding hitting power and keen court sense have made her an unstoppable force throughout local high school and club volleyball. But she’s also worked hard to perfect the other aspects of her game: serving, digging and passing, which will make her a valuable asset when she starts her college career at the UW in the fall.
“She’s going to have to play all the way around,” said retired Fife High coach Jan Kirk, who coached Silvernail in high school and Morrison in club. “That’s why it’s so important to work on all aspects of her game — passing being No. 1.”
Batinovich recognized Schwan’s passing acumen when he saw her play at a seventh-grade volleyball camp at Pacific Lutheran University. Even then she made it look easy by doing the little things well.
“Courtney has such great hands, and her volleyball IQ is way up there,” Batinovich said. “I’m going to be curious to see how (the Huskies) use her.”
Schwan has put in the time to work on becoming a well-rounded player, and envisions being able to contribute as a freshman for the Huskies.
“I want to play (immediately) when I get there,” Schwan said.
So how high is her ceiling in college volleyball? Can she have great success like the other stellar outside hitters before her?
“I’d be shocked if she isn’t an All-American in the coming years,” Batinovich said. “She’s one of those special kids that only comes around every once in a while.”
While it may take Schwan some time to get caught up to the speed of the college game, Kirk is confident she’ll will make an impact.
“I think she’ll do very well,” Kirk said.
Schwan has never been one to get wrapped up in her legacy or taking much stock in how others assess her game. She’s focused on immersing herself with her teammates at Bellarmine Prep. Next up is playing for the Huskies, and beyond that, possibly the U.S. Olympic team.
“That’s why I chose the University of Washington,” she said. “The coaches are very detail-oriented. They’re going to make me the best player I can be.”