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Volleyball

Hawks Finch, Nelson both commit to Division I schools

Soaring to new horizons

Oregon senior Gylian Finch (left) and junior Bailey Nelson will continue their volleyball careers at the Division I level. Finch will play for Tennessee-Chattanooga next year, while Nelson will play at DePaul starting in 2019.
Oregon senior Gylian Finch (left) and junior Bailey Nelson will continue their volleyball careers at the Division I level. Finch will play for Tennessee-Chattanooga next year, while Nelson will play at DePaul starting in 2019.

College commitments can be a tough process for high schoolers to handle, especially when Division I schools are involved.

Gylian Finch and Bailey Nelson didn’t feel as much pressure as others might, knowing they had each other on the volleyball court for Oregon and their Club Fusion team.

Last April, Finch, then a junior, verbally committed to the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga in the middle of the club season. Just 2 weeks ago, Nelson, a current junior, made her verbal commitment to DePaul.

And while they were plenty happy to make their announcements, they were more excited for each other’s choices.

“She told me she was close to committing,” Nelson said. “I was super-happy and proud when she told me she was going to a D-I school. But then I realized I needed to step up and find a good school for me, too.”

“I was super-pumped,” Finch said of Nelson’s decision. “I came into the locker room jumping up and down telling her I was happy for her.”

A common aspiration for almost all high school athletes is to go to a Division I school on scholarship to play their favorite sport, and Club Fusion was a unique chance for both outside hitters to showcase their skills on a high-level platform.

“The whole point of that was playing and getting a scholarship in college,” Nelson said. “Once I started going to the big tournaments and seeing all the college recruiters, I knew this was something I wanted to do.”

“In tryouts, we both made the top team, and when that happened, I thought, ‘Maybe I am good enough,’” Finch said.

While both Finch and Nelson realized they wanted to continue volleyball in college during their high school years, Oregon coach and Finch’s former babysitter Faith McNamee knew both had what it took to garner attention.

“I knew before they even got to high school that they had a lot of talent,” McNamee said. “But even more than talent, they work extremely hard. It was very obvious. I think no matter what sport they chose, they would’ve excelled because they’re hard workers.”

Finch said she chose Chattanooga because she wanted to get out of Illinois, and fell in love with the campus the first time she ever stepped foot in southeastern Tennessee. She received other Division I offers from Wofford and South Dakota State, and a Division II offer from Lewis University, but will sign her National Letter of Intent to play for the Mocs in November.

“It was a huge relief,” Finch said. “I didn’t have to worry about communicating with recruiters. I was just telling them I was committed.”

Nelson has been in contact with the coaching staff at DePaul since her freshman year at Oregon, and is dead-set on heading to Chicago in the fall of 2019. She fielded a D-I offer from Davidson, and would have received another from Marist College in New York had she gone to visit campus. An open and honest Blue Demon coaching staff, paired with the fact that campus is away from home but not too far, has Nelson locked into DePaul.

“I don’t think the feeling is going to set in until this club season when I don’t have to worry about reaching out to coaches,” Nelson said. “I’m very at peace with my whole volleyball world right now.”

Neither Hawk feels any pressure to be anything other than the best versions of themselves for Oregon to succeed. A team-first attitude makes it easy on their teammates and the coaching staff to just play – hopefully deep into the postseason.

“They’re both very knowledgeable about the game. What I could see being a challenge is that they think they know more than the coaches. But neither of them have acted like they know more than us,” McNamee said. “We’ve found areas to help Bailey and Gylian improve. It’s been fun finding things for them to improve on.”

“I think it would be awesome to make it to a supersectional or state,” Nelson said. “But we don’t feel pressure because we know everyone on the team values each other. We’re a team, it’s not just about us.”

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