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After more than a year of communicating with volleyball college programs ranging from Division I to Division III, the uncommitted Ellie Popelka was beginning to face a time crunch with making her decision.
Heading into her unofficial visit to the University of South Carolina on Monday, Popelka had yet to receive an offer from the Gamecocks after sending a recruiting email that included game film to the coaching staff roughly a month ago.
“One day I decided to send an email to see what would come of it and they said they would love for me to come on a visit,” Popelka said of her connection to USC. “They had never watched me play in person.”
Despite having almost no relationship with the university of the coaches, Popelka visited USC to see what the school had to offer and to gauge the interest of the coaches.
Much to her surprise, Popelka was offered a scholarship by the USC coaches after a full day of touring athletic and academic facilities, as well as the town of Columbia, S.C.
Popelka’s immediate reaction upon being offered a scholarship was a combination of elation and disbelief.
“When I went to the [coach’s office], I was hoping [to get an offer], but I didn’t want to get my hopes too high,” Popelka said. “I had to take a step back and think, ‘Wait, is this actually happening?'”
The Jamestown junior, who was also considering the University of Tennessee and Towson University, committed on the spot and ended her college recruitment with a formal offer extended by the Gamecocks.
Popelka, a first-team All-State selection for Group 4A, said she expects to play middle or outside hitter on the right side for USC, both of which she played at Jamestown.
As exciting as it is for Popelka to have her college decision made, she said she is equally as excited to no longer have to go through the recruitment process, which she called “annoying.”
“It’s always you either get dragged along by a coach or they tell you straight off the bat that they aren’t interested in you,” she said, adding at least eight schools slow-played her during the recruiting process. “It got quite bothersome.”