With four sophomores returning for the 2014 volleyball season, Sauk Valley coach Jay Howell knew he had to hit the recruiting trail hard last winter.
While he certainly combed high school gyms for talent, he didn't even have to leave the campus to pull in one big hitter.
Jordan Giddings – a 6-1 three-sport star from Rock Falls – was already walking the halls at Sauk.
She started her community college career planning to play two sports – softball and basketball. After playing with the softball team during the fall her freshman year, she did not rejoin it in the spring.
Giddings was a key contributor for the basketball team, and then helped coach the softball team at Rock Falls in the spring. Even last winter, she knew that volleyball could be a possibility.
"Jay talked to my mom at a game last year, and she told me that he was planning to come after me hard," said Giddings at practice on Wednesday. "So it was in the back of my head, and the more I thought about it, I thought I could do it."
"I don't think it took a lot of convincing," Howell said. "She had Morgan [Mammosser] pushing her a bit, I think. Jordan is the kind of athlete that can step in and contribute no matter the sport."
Giddings is reunited with Mammosser, who also played basketball and volleyball at Rock Falls for 4 years, and a single year of softball.
The team started practicing at the start of August, and Giddings was ready to go. Despite a year away from the sport, it didn't take long to get back into the swing.
"It wasn't that tough," Giddings said. "With basketball, I was in shape. It was a little more jumping, but that should help me when basketball starts."
Giddings is one of two players that is attempting the volleyball-basketball double this year. Freshman Kiarra Harris, a Sterling graduate, will do the same.
If the volleyball team makes a postseason run, there could be some conflict with basketball, which begins in October. Giddings talked with hoops coach Jed Johnson before deciding on joining the volleyball squad.
"He likes it, and he doesn't like it," Giddings said. "He wants us to be active, and active with the school. But there's always the worry about getting hurt, and that lingering into the basketball season."
Giddings says she could end up playing volleyball at another university next school year if the opportunity presents itself. She intends to pursue a degree in actuarial science.
In all, Howell added seven freshmen to the roster, six of which come from the Sauk Valley. The lone exception being Alyssa Morales from Sahuarita, Arizona.
Morales came on the recommendation of her cousin, Rene Valdez, the former baseball coach at Sauk Valley.
"The nice thing is that most of these players know each other from high school," Howell said. "It's not like starting from scratch. They've played with each other or against each other for so long, that they are familiar with each other's games."
The Skyhawks went 18-18 last year and lose Kalli Scheppers, an All-American outside hitter from Mendota, as well as setter Karly Koch and middle hitter Kayla Kurz.
While talent wasn't an issue last season, depth was. With 10 players on the roster, the team struggled in tournaments. It also played the stretch run of the season without all-conference hitter Kristyn Kasner, who broke a finger.
Kasner returns this year.
The Skyhawks have 12 players heading into the season, and will be looking to win their first Arrowhead Conference title since 1992.
The biggest obstacle in the conference traditionally has been Kishwaukee. The Cougars have won 17 conference titles in a row, but the college is not fielding a team this year.
"With this being my first year, I don't know the teams that well, and I've never played in college before," Giddings said. "But I think we can be good. We have a lot of talent, and without Kishwaukee, anything could happen."
ScheduleSaturday, Aug. 8 at Blackhawk tournamentMonday, Aug. 25 Rock Valley, 6 p.m.Wednesday, Sept. 3 IVCC, 6 p.m.Saturday, Sept. 6 at Moraine Valley triangularTuesday, Sept. 9 at Black Hawk, 6 p.m.Sept. 12-13 at Kankakee InviteTuesday, Sept. 16 Highland, 6 p.m.Friday, Sept. 19 at Rockford University triangularSaturday, Sept. 20 at UW-Whitewater tournamentTuesday, Sept. 23 at Black Hawk East, 6 p.m.Wednesday, Sept. 24 Carl Sandburg, 6 p.m.Tuesday, Sept. 30 at IVCC, 6 p.m.Wednesday, Oct. 1 Black Hawk, 6 p.m.Saturday, Oct. 4 at Elgin triangularWednesday, Oct. 8 at Highland, 6 p.m.Saturday, Oct. 11 Lincoln, 10 a.m., Prairie St. 2 p.m.Monday, Oct. 13 Waubonsee, 6 p.m.Oct. 17-18 at Rock Valley tournamentTuesday, Oct. 21 Black Hawk East, 6 p.m.Wednesday, Oct. 22 at Carl Sandburg, 6 p.m.Saturday, Oct. 25 at Lincoln triangular
RosterNo. Name Year Height Pos High School1 Morgan Mammosser So. 5-8 DS/OH Rock Falls2 Kayci Howell Fr 5-7 S Newman3 Brianna Correa So. 5-2 DS Mendota4 Alyssa Morales Fr. 5-8 DH/OH Sahuartia, Ariz.5 Kristyn Kasner So. 5-10 MH/OH Pecatonica6 Kiarra Harris Fr. 5-11 MH Sterling7 Alyssa Workman So 5-10 MH/OP Morrison8 Jordan Wilken Fr. 5-11 DS Oregon13 Brooke Williams Fr. 6-2 OP Sterling14 Shiela Browning Fr 5-7 OH LaMoille16 Jordan Giddings So. 6-1 MH/OH Rock Falls21 Haley McAuliffe Fr. 5-7 S Milledgeville