McHenry's Ava Pauly never considered McHenry County College a serious volleyball destination until a former high school teammate, Zoe Lindsey, transferred from NCAA Division I University of New Orleans to MCC three years ago.
On Saturday, Pauly followed in Lindsey's footsteps and signed a National Letter of Intent to continue her volleyball career with the Scots. Pauly finished her freshman year at Aurora University this fall before returning home and signing up for classes at MCC in the winter.
Pauly is one of 10 players to sign with MCC. Six are from local schools, including Hannah Rivera (Jacobs), Karly Gewalt (McHenry), Hannah Olsen (Prairie Ridge), Kimmy Hammond (Johnsburg) and Allison Spitson (Woodstock North).
MCC also signed Benedictine transfer Kendall Holmes, Pecatonica's Victoria Roberts, Chicago School of Agriculture's Madi Malinowski and Genoa-Kingston's Jadalee Snyder.
Pauly had a strong freshman year at Aurora, ranking second on the team in kills and points, but things didn't work out personally for her there, she said. After transferring to MCC, one of the first emails she sent was to MCC women's volleyball coach Kyle McCall.
McCall responded almost immediately.
"It was a complete surprise to all of us," McCall said. "We recruited Ava in high school, so for me to get that email was pretty awesome. It just makes me think, 'Wow, we must be doing some good things at MCC where this kid had a great year and she wants to try something different, and we're that email.'
"She has super high volleyball IQ, comes from a great family, and we're super excited to see what she does for us."
Over the past three years, the Scots routinely have been ranked among the best NJCAA D-II programs in the nation. Two years ago, they advanced to their first national tournament since 2009.
Local players have taken notice.
"When Zoe Lindsey came back home to play at MCC, that's when I first noticed them," Pauly said. "And that's when I first started learning about the program. The fact that they've been able to keep successful teams year after year is awesome. I just want to help continue that success for Kyle."
This year's recruiting class was the biggest for McCall and assistant coach Shari Mayner. McCall said behavior issues led to the majority of first-year players not returning, putting extra pressure on the coaching staff to essentially build a new team.
Sophomore and Plainfield North grad Amy Stumpf is the only returning player from last year's roster.
"I think we’re going to be very different than we have been in the past," McCall said. "In the past, we’ve had our strength in the middle. This year, I think we’re going to be different because we’re pin heavy. So the left and the right, we’re going to be very strong."
Rivera was the first player to commit, McCall said. The Jacobs grad received positive feedback from Katie Mahoney and Kyla Fitzsimmons, both two-year players on MCC that also graduated from Jacobs.
Pauly knows many of the first-year players coming to MCC both from high school and Club Fusion in Crystal Lake. Pauly played at Fusion in high school and now coaches a 13U team.
"It's going to be so much fun with this group of girls," Pauly said. "I can't wait to get started."