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Six NWC volleyball players to continue athletics, education

Northwest College head volleyball coach Shaun Pohlman poses with the six players who signed letters of intent on National Signing Day, which was Wednesday. Pictured from left are Reilley Baty, Alye Wagner, Maliyah Tela, Olivia Jarvis, Lauga Gauta and Jelena Slijepcevic. Northwest College head volleyball coach Shaun Pohlman poses with the six players who signed letters of intent on National Signing Day, which was Wednesday. Pictured from left are Reilley Baty, Alye Wagner, Maliyah Tela, Olivia Jarvis, Lauga Gauta and Jelena Slijepcevic. Tribune photo by Breanne Thiel

Six Northwest College volleyball players are continuing their athletic careers at Division I, Division II and NAIA programs.

“One is great. Six, that’s a pretty cool thing,” head NWC volleyball coach Shaun Pohlman said at Wednesday’s National Signing Day event. “It’s pretty special and I’m just fortunate to be a part of that group that has been able to do that. So that’s pretty exciting.”

Lauga Gauta, Jelena Slijepcevic, Reilley Baty, Alye Wagner, Maliyah Tela and Olivia Jarvis all signed letters of intent on Wednesday.

Additionally, a seventh player, Lauryn Dela Cruz from Provo, Utah graduated in December and has signed to play at Division I Chicago State University; Dela Cruz had transferred to NWC last spring from Western Wyoming.

“I think getting just anybody to sign on is obviously fun and one of the reason why we do this job,” Pohlman said. “I mean, we recruit these players coming to a junior college hoping to move on for the most part. There’s some that know they are not necessarily going to play on, but the ones that do have that desire to find out what opportunities exist at the next level.”

The slew of signings follow the Lady Trappers’ sixth-place finish at the NJCAA National Volleyball Championships last fall.

Lauga Gauta

Gauta, from Garden Grove, California, signed on to play at the University of Utah, also a Division I school. The 2016 NJCAA 1st Team All-American has been playing volleyball for about five or six years.

Gauta picked the University of Utah after liking both the volleyball and academic program; she said the school has a program geared toward helping college athletes.

“I thought it was really helpful for me,” said Gauta.

Gauta will major in anthropology, because she likes cultures — and she’s thinking about going into forensics anthropology.

Coach Pohlman was the reason why Gauta came to NWC, thinking the coach and the program could help create a better lifestyle for herself.

“He helped me build as a person instead of just as a volleyball player, and I thought that was helpful for me in the long run, not just being at junior college and getting another scholarship,” Gauta said. “It was more of a life kind of lesson here.”

Gauta thanked God for the opportunity to play and thanked her family members for their love and support.

Jelena Slijepcevic

Slijepcevic, from Ruma, Serbia, signed on to play for the University of Akron, Ohio, another Division I school.

Slijepcevic choose Akron “because ... it’s really good in academics as well as in volleyball.”

“I needed a balance since I am really passionate about school but also about volleyball, so I needed to choose a school that fitted me the best in both fields,” she said.

As far as a major, Slijepcevic is deciding between engineering and computer science.

Slijepcevic said she came to NWC because she “just liked the opportunity to come for two years, and mostly to learn English, since that was really hard for me.”

Slijepcevic, who has been playing volleyball for 12 years, added that when she saw NWC’s recent volleyball success and the schooling it offered, she thought, “That’s perfect for me.”

Slijepcevic said she’s “going to miss the school a lot,” thanking the entire coaching staff, her professors and her teammates — for their help on and off the court, including helping her learn English.

Reilly Baty

Baty signed on to play at Black Hills State University in South Dakota, a Division II school.

“I really liked the program that they have there,” said Baty. “It’s a teaching school, they started out as a teaching school and that’s what I’m going into, is elementary education, so I really like the program, the coach and then the school just topped it all off.”

Baty has been playing volleyball since fifth grade and is from Laramie.

Upon deciding to attend NWC, Baty said the deciding factor was “definitely the coach. I actually didn’t have Northwest in my thought zone of anything, but then coach [Pohlman] called me. He called me like once a week just to talk to me and see how I was and like he actually cared about my actual being as a person, not just the sport of volleyball.”

Of her career ending at NWC Baty said “I just want to thank the coach and the college for supporting us and getting us through two years of college.”

Alye Wagner

Wagner plans to continue her volleyball career at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, a Division II school.

She said her choice was “originally just the academics; I want to do biomedical engineering and they have one of the greatest engineering programs in the nation, so they drew me there.”

Wagner added that when she met the coaching staff and the team, “they just made me want to be a part of it.”

Wagner has been playing about 11 years and is from Cheyenne.

“I want to thank coach Pohlman for being so supportive and nudging me to play on — even though it was kind of a long process — and my family for being so supportive and NWC for helping me get there,” Wagner added.

Maliyah Tela and Olivia Jarvis

Tela and Jarvis both signed on to play at Campbellsville University in Kentucky, an NAIA school.

“We already have one of our past teammates from last year there and the culture from here and there is very similar, and that was a really important thing,” Tela explained of the her decision. “And then it was a plus to be able to go together.”

Jarvis agreed.

Tela is majoring in sports psychology and Jarvis is thinking about majoring in graphic design. Both players have been playing for about seven years.

“Thanks to our coach and our team; it has been absolutely crazy, I can’t believe the two years are over, but just thanks for helping us get this far,” said Tela.

Added Jarvis, “it was a great experience and we’re going to miss it for sure, but we’re excited for the next level, and coach Pohlman definitely helped us get there, so we’re excited.”

Coach Pohlman said he’s happy for everybody.

“The thing is, I don’t think anybody has settled. We still have two players looking to play, because they are not settling,” Pohlman said. They could have signed on by now, they could have just said, ‘I’m just going to do it and be done with it,’ but they have integrity in what they are looking for academically, socially and athletically so they are not just going to sign anywhere.”

The two players still looking at colleges are Mikayla Sellers-Wiebe from Manitoba, Canada, and Kelsey Marchant from Powell.

In October, the coaching staff had the team make a list of the five most important things to each player in a college.

“We’ve been searching for those colleges,” Pohlman said. “We can’t have everything, but we can have priorities — things that matter.”

Pohlman also added that the Trappers’ success over the past several years “has really drawn a crowd of four-year coaches to our program. They see that we have finished at the top for the last four years, so they see our program and say, ‘Hey, I see you have that kid over there and we need that position, are they available,’ and that type of thing,” Pohlman said. “I wish that I could say it has been all them or all me, but this has been a team, a complete effort ...”

Pohlman said the team has tried to build the program and get to a point where they have events like big signing days.

“Now,” he said, “It’s just a matter of getting players, student athletes in here, that are willing to maintain the culture we have built and continue to maintain that culture.”

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