4 Carson volleyball players sign LOIs

Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal

Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal

Blaike King, Shannon Earwood, Nikki Keller and Danae Eckart have played key roles on the Carson High volleyball team the past few years.

And, after success in high school and with the Capital City Volleyball Club, the quartet is moving on to bigger and better things. All four signed national letter of intents Wednesday.

King, an outside hitter, is headed to Central Connecticut State (Division I); Keller, a middle blocker, is headed to Radford University (D-I) in Virginia; Danae Eckart, a libero, is going to the University of Texas-Permian Basin (D-II) and Earwood, a setter, is headed to King College (D-II) in Tennessee.

"First and foremost, the moves they made are excellent," said Justin Malley, Carson coach. "They all had Division I offers. Danae and Shannon were looking for something different: Smaller schools.

"This will be a hard senior class to replace."

Of the four, Keller's story may be the most interesting in the sense that she got a full scholarship from Radford despite the fact she tore her right anterior cruciate ligament when she landed awkwardly after a block attempt in a tournament in Las Vegas.

Whether she plays next season is still up in the air. Much will depend on how quick she can rehab the injury.

"I'm not worried about it," Keller said. "If I'm not ready to go, then I will redshirt next season. I'm working hard. I want to play next season."

Malley said that Keller was an unknown entering her senior year at Carson because she hadn't played club volleyball, choosing instead to play softball during the summer.

"She's a tremendously hard worker," Malley said. "She's so quick to learn. She hadn't played club volleyball since eighth or ninth grade. Stepping away from softball, she put herself in a position to accomplish this."

Keller said she lost interest in softball over time, thus freeing up time to concentrate on volleyball.

Keller got back from a visit to the Radford campus last weekend, and came away impressed.

"The campus is gorgeous," she said. "I love the coach. She is amazing and the girls on the team are really nice."

Eckart, who helped lead her club team to a first-place finish at the Cal Kickoff this year, was looking at walking on at UNR and talked with Alabama and Ohio State before accepting the offer from the Texas school.

According to Malley, Eckart about an 80 percent scholarship in terms of academics and athletics.

Eckart admitted that she got a little culture shock when she visited Odessa.

"It was so brown," she said. "No mountains and no trees. There were oil rigs all over the place."

What the Texas school has is small enrollment and good student-to-teacher ratios (22-1), which was important to Eckart.

According to Malley, the Odessa school routinely draws 2,000 fans to home games.

"They offered me a day after the tournament in Las Vegas (mid-February)," Eckart said. "It was pretty great."

Eckart expects to see most of her action as a libero, a position she relishes. Liberos don't get a lot of recognition, but that doesn't concern Eckart.

"I love playing defense," Eckart said. "I feel you get a lot of recognition (from coaches, teammates)."

Peer respect is what's important to any athlete, and Eckart is well respected by her coaches and teammates for her effort on the floor.

Earwood played for the Red team during the club season because Megan Mitchell from Douglas played on the Black squad. Malley said that experience was beneficial and gave Earwood a chance to run a college-style offense without having to share time with another setter.

What attracted Earwood to King College was its size and the family-like atmosphere the team has.

"I talked to other schools, but King was my No. 1 choice," she said. "This is where I wanted to go."

Malley admitted that when King started to play volleyball, he didn't think she would be a Division I player. He was certainly happy to be proved wrong.

"She is the epitome of hard work," Malley said. "I attribute anything Blaike has accomplished to hard work in the gym."

King, who was a valuable reserve on Carson's playoff basketball team this season, is happy that everything is settled.

"I'm happy to know what I'm going to be doing after I get out of high school," she said.

The only other offer King said she considered was from Pacific College in Forest Grove, Ore.

"I had some financial issues with them," said King, who received a full ride. "They couldn't give me any money (athletically), and since it's a private school it would have been more expensive than a state school."

King said she is most likely to lay outside, though she also could see action at libero.

"Either is fine," she said. "Playing outside you get a lot serve-receive chances and you have to pass."

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