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Record-setting TC volleyball player signs with IU Kokomo

Julia Sanders tells a familiar tale.

Driven to continue her volleyball career at the collegiate level, the Triton Central senior found the recruiting process daunting.

Then a coach from a volleyball program she knew nothing about showed interest. Suddenly, Sanders found her future home, one quite similar to the one she has at Triton Central.

On Tuesday afternoon, Sanders signed her national letter of intent to play college volleyball at Indiana University Kokomo.

“It’s crazy. I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time,” said Sanders. “The whole recruiting process made me really nervous. I was scared the whole time because it’s not an easy process, but now that it’s over, I feel relieved and am happy with my decision.”

A member of Team Indiana Volleyball Club out of Indianapolis, Sanders, the daughter of Vince and Jill Sanders, was looking for the right fit. She just didn’t expect that opportunity to come knocking on her door.

“I was contacted by coach (Heather Hayes) and I didn’t know IU Kokomo was a good volleyball program,” said Sanders. “She came to a practice and she was so nice. She is definitely the first reason I was interested in there.

“Then I went on a visit and met the girls and saw the campus and fell in love. I wanted a small campus and that is exactly what IU Kokomo is. They definitely feel like a family, which is what Triton Central feels like. I felt like I was seen there because it’s smaller and I didn’t just feel like a number. I felt like I would have a role there on that team.”

IU Kokomo won the River States Conference Championship tournament for the fourth straight season and qualified for the NAIA National Tournament with a 28-8 record.

The 2021 season ended with a 3-0 loss to Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa. The NAIA tournament appearance was the seventh straight for the Cougars.

“They have good coaches and people that I think will push (Julia) to keep getting better,” said Triton Central volleyball coach Ray Basile. “It’s a local program and as you can see here she has a lot of friends and family here (for the signing).

“Selfishly, I can go watch her play and they can go watch her play. It’s close enough we can all get to see her.”

Sanders, a defensive specialist, leaves Triton Central with program records for single season digs and career records for digs and service aces.

“The stats don’t show everything you lose when someone like that goes away,” said Basile. “People don’t think of the libero as an offensive player but if you listen to the stuff I hear her talking about on the floor, the mental stuff and telling players where to go and where to hit the ball, it was like having a floor general out there helping the offense too.

“It’s a big loss for us and a huge gain for them.”

Sanders will major in Health Science with the goal of becoming a physician’s assistant.

Staying close to home, finding an opportunity to compete right away in a successful program, and the right educational track made IU Kokomo an attractive destination.

“(Location) was definitely a big factor because I had some opportunities to go further away,” she said. “In the end, it came back to I wanted anyone that wants to watch me can come watch me. My family likes to support me and they can easily now. And I can come home when I need to.”

With a strong senior class graduating, Sanders believes she has an opportunity to earn playing time as a freshman.

“From what the coach has told me and what I’ve seen, I feel like I have a very equal opportunity to play,” said Sanders. “They have a couple of DS (defensive specialists) graduating this year, they have a big senior class so that means a lot of freshmen coming in but I am the only DS coming in that I know of that is signed.

“There are a lot of good DS in front of me but I don’t think it’s out of my reach to be on the floor next year.”