A pair of Marshall juniors recently made verbal commitments to extend their volleyball careers beyond high school.
Setter/hitter Sydney Griffin, a two-time Minnesota Volleyball Coaches Association All-State and two-time All-State Tournament player, has verbally committed to join the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, N.D.
Griffin was a major factor in the Tigers' back-to-back Class AA state championships in 2011 and 2012 and has accumulated 1,644 career set assists and 565 kills for Marshall.
"The coaches at UND were great and their facilities are some of the best in the country," Griffin said. "The other players in the program are very competitive and that will no doubt push me to get better.
"I wanted the opportunity to get away from home and be on my own," she added. "I'm looking forward to going to UND."
Griffin's teammate, Kenzie Beekman, will also play after graduating from Marshall High School in the spring of 2014, though Beekman will be staying closer to home.
The 2012 Marshall Independent Player of the Year and two-time All-State selection as an outside hitter has made a verbal commitment to play collegiately for the hometown Southwest Minnesota State University Mustangs.
"I really enjoyed the coaching staff and the players at SMSU," Beekman said. "I also felt very comfortable at the school. SMSU has built a very good volleyball program. There are a lot of positive things happening at SMSU and I'll get to stay close to my family. I am very excited to be a Mustang."
In three years playing for coach Dan Westby, Beekman has pounded down 1,373 kills and scooped up 743 digs. Beekman was also selected as an All-American in 2011 by prepvolleyball.com.
Westby feels that both players should have the same impact on their future schools as they have for Marshall, which Stewartville 3-1 to claim the 2011 Class AA state title and repeated in 2012 with a four-set win over Caledonia.
"Both Kenzie and Syd are getting great opportunities beyond high school," Westby said. "They've both had a major impact on volleyball in our state and both have played major roles in our recent success. We're excited that they'll both get to take their game to the next level. They're great players and great kids. Both universities are getting a couple of special players."
Before Beekman and Griffin trade in the orange and black, the two will join their teammates on a quest to three-peat in Class AA.
"We're really looking forward to next season," Beekman said. "We'd like to win another state championship, but we know its going to take a lot of hard work. It should be a lot of fun.
"I couldn't have asked for a better high school experience," she added. "We get pushed really hard in practice, but it's worth it. We're a very close-knit group."
"We have the goal of winning a third straight state championship," she said. "We could be a very good team again if everyone works hard. I'm very excited for our senior year.
"It's been a great experience playing for Marshall," Griffin added. "Our team is very close on and off the court. We really enjoy being together. Our coaches push us pretty hard and that should help me get ready for the next level."
UND, a member of Division I's Big Sky Conference, finished the 2012 season with a 15-17 overall record. With no seniors on the team, UND qualified for the Big Sky conference tournament but lost in straight sets to their hosts from Northern Colorado.
SMSU finished 2012 30-3 overall under ninth-year head coach Terry Culhane. The Mustangs earned their first Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference title since 2001, while winning the NSIC tournament for the first time in school history. After ending their season with a 3-1 loss to Nebraska-Kearney in the second round of the NCAA tournament, the Mustangs were ranked No. 6 in the final American Volleyball Coaches Association Division II Top 25 Coaches' Poll.