New court, same sport: A look at freshman setter Megan Wielonski’s transition from high school to college volleyball

Freshman setter Megan Wielonski cheers for her teammate against Northern Kentucky at Worthen Arena Sept. 18. Wielonski comes from Cincinnati, Ohio, were she has played club and high school volleyball. Jacy Bradley, DN
Freshman setter Megan Wielonski cheers for her teammate against Northern Kentucky at Worthen Arena Sept. 18. Wielonski comes from Cincinnati, Ohio, were she has played club and high school volleyball. Jacy Bradley, DN

While attending Mount Notre Dame High School in Cincinnati, Megan Wielonksi knew she wanted to play volleyball at the collegiate level. During her junior year, her decision came down to two schools: Ball State and the University of Delaware.

When she first stepped foot on Ball State’s campus during her recruiting visit, Wielonski said she didn’t feel like an outsider. She immediately felt like she belonged as a Cardinal.

“I was invited in and taken under their wing —  just as one of them,” Wielonski said. “Kelli [Miller Phillips], Tiff [Koors] and Fritz [Rosenberg] [are] such a great coaching staff. They've always been so supportive of me and [have] been such great coaches so far … It really just came down to my connection with the coaching staff and the players. This was just something I couldn't give up or pass up.”

After her visit, Wielonski committed to Ball State in November 2020. Since arriving on campus this August, Wielonski — now a setter for Ball State Women’s Volleyball — has played in all 46 sets for the Cardinals this season. In 12 matches, she has recorded a team-high 469 assists and 12 service aces. 

While Wielonski said her transition to the collegiate court has been a smooth experience, it has required a different discipline compared to her club and high school volleyball careers.

“It's a lot more mental than I would have thought,” Wielonski said. “In club [and] in high school, I thought it was mainly just physical — it wasn't a lot to think about. But now, I think it's a lot more communication and more head games.” 

While watching Wielonski play for Elevation Volleyball Club in Mason, Ohio, Ball State head coach Kelli Miller Phillips felt she “had great hands, had a good release [and] played for a good team.”

“You want people that have played on winning teams [and] have played in the pressure moments because we're going to need that,” Miller Phillips said. “You're going to need somebody that's used to and comfortable with those championship moments … We recruited her early throughout the high school process and followed her all the way to her commitment junior year and beyond.”

As a three-year varsity letter winner at Mount Notre Dame, Wielonski helped lead the Cougars to a 68-12 record during her time as the team’s setter. In 2020, Wielonski’s final year with the program, Mount Notre Dame won its 10th Division I state championship and finished the season ranked No. 1 nationally by MaxPreps. 

Freshman setter Megan Wielonski attempts to block a kill from Northern Kentucky at Worthen Arena Sept. 18. Wielonski has 20 blocks for the season so far. Jacy Bradley, DN

Miller Phillips said the high school and club teams Wielonski played on were highly competitive, and the experience she gained before coming to Ball State helped her grow as a player.

“I think she has a great volleyball IQ,” Phillips said. “She understands the game, she understands how to get her hitters in good positions offensively [and] can take a lot of information in and process it [at a] really, really mature level.”

Junior outside hitter Natalie Mitchem said she believes Wielonski’s skill was on display in her first practice as a Cardinal. As soon as she saw her train, Mitchem said she knew she was excited to share the court with her. 

“I knew when she first came in — I thought she was a really good player,” Mitchem said. “I was really excited for her to be on the team and play with us.”

Like Mitchem, Miller Phillips had high expectations for Wielonski’s skill and professionalism based on what she showed before coming to Ball State. Miller Phillips said she was pleasantly surprised by her “mature, calm and very competitive” demeanor as well as her ability to execute. 

“I think when we first saw her play with us, [we were] pleasantly surprised of how quickly she can take on a lot of information and be able to still execute,” Miller Phillips said. “I mean, as a setter, you have a lot of things you have to have on your mind. I've just been really impressed with her ability to take it all in, process it and then still execute in a mature fashion.”

Competing for the Cardinals has been a pleasant experience in Wielonski’s eyes so far — one she hopes will continue to build throughout the year.

“I think it's brought upon so many new things that I didn't know a team could do or I could do — many new experiences and just a whole new level of competition, which is awesome,” Wielonski said.

Contact Daniel Kehn with comments at daniel.kehn@bsu.edu or on Twitter @kehn_daniel.

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