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CHS’ Speaks pledges to N.C. State

Two-time all-stater relieved to have recruiting process behind her

Posted: January 24, 2012 3:00 p.m.
Updated: January 25, 2012 5:00 a.m.

Some high schoolers wait until the last possible moment before deciding where they will spend their college years.
You can scratch Maggie Speaks off that list. The Camden High School junior and SCAWS 2011 AAA player of the year knows what she wants, what she likes and where she sees herself fitting in best.
For those reasons, among others, the two-time AAA volleyball all-state player decided last Thursday night to commit to continuing her respective academic and volleyball careers at North Carolina State University.
The final decision came after the 5-foot-11 setter/hitter did her homework both on the school and Bryan Bunn’s program.
“I have been talking with my coaches and to my parents and we just decided that if they (NCSU) offered, that that would be the place to go,” Speaks said on Monday morning in an interview conducted at CHS. “So, Thursday night, I decided that would be the place to go.”
Speaks was being recruited by the likes of South Carolina, Mississippi and Georgia before deciding to cast her lot with the Wolfpack. She is eligible to sign her National Letter of Intent during the November early signing period, meaning that she is still a recruitable athlete since a verbal commitment is a non-binding agreement between an athlete and an NCAA member institution.
When it came time to make this decision, Speaks said it was not as hard as one might think.
“It wasn’t really that tough,” she said of the decision-making process. “When I went there, I kind of knew that it was the type of place that I wanted to be in. It wasn’t that tough a decision.”
The Wolfpack have been persistent in their recruitment of Speaks. The coaches from the ACC program started contacting her via e-mail following her sophomore season for the Lady Bulldogs. By the middle of last summer, Bunn’s staff invited Speaks and her parents to come to Raleigh for an unofficial visit. Last season, an NC State assistant coach came to see Speaks in action for himself in a match and, obviously, liked what he saw.
The Speaks’ took Bunn and company up on the offer to visit the school. Speaks said she liked what she saw and heard during her trip to Raleigh.
“We visited the campus in September and it was really nice,” said the three-year starter for Paige Wilson’s Lady Bulldogs.
“It’s a big campus, but it’s not all spread out … it’s close together, but it’s still big. It had a good ‘school spirit-y’ feel to it. It’s real pretty and it is in a good location.”
Count Wilson among those who feel this was a good decision on Speaks’ part.
“I think this is a good fit for Maggie,” said the CHS head coach. “I’m extremely excited for her. Playing volleyball in college has been a goal of Maggie’s for a long time; she really wanted to play at the Division I level. I couldn’t be any happier for her.
“Maggie has put in the time and has worked very hard in order to achieve her goal.”
This past season, the Wolfpack had a breakthrough campaign in Bunn’s second year on the job. In spite of 11 of their top 19 players playing their first season of college volleyball, NC State finished with a 20-13 record and an 8-12 mark in ACC play, which was good for seventh place. The eight league wins broke the previous school record of six and the Wolfpack also won a school-record four ACC road matches, established a school-record 13-match winning streak and had its first winning season since the 1996 squad went 21-16.
In committing to Bunn and company, Speaks said she is joining a program which is on the upswing.
“I know that before, the volleyball program there hadn’t done all that well,” Speaks said. “Their coach just came three years ago and ever since then, the program has been on the rise and has gotten better. They have a real young team; all the girls I met there will be the girls who’ll I’ll be playing with.”
Wilson said Speaks is heading into a program which is on the right track and one which is headed in a positive direction with an enthusiastic staff. “This is a real good time for Maggie to be going to NC State. Their program is really climbing,” she said.
A majority of the girls whom Speaks met and talked with during her visit will be her future teammates in the fall of 2013. What impressed the Lady Bulldogs standout when it came time to describe the players at NC State was how close the team is and how well they work and mesh together.
A setter/hitter for Camden, which played for the AAA Lower State title last fall, Speaks plays solely at setter for the Magnumclub volleyball team in Columbia. She will stay as a setter as a member of the Wolfpack.
“We run fast plays in club and I’ll call the plays when I look at the court. It will probably be more pressure than in club,” she said of the changes when she gets to the next level.
Due to her size, skill level and the team’s needs, Speaks plays both setter and hitter for Camden High. In the college game, her role will be streamlined to serve as a hitter. But her talent in all phases of the game will be a plus for Bunn and company, Wilson said.
“At the college level,” Wilson said, “most teams run a one-setter offense. With her size and athleticism, Maggie will fit in very well there. She’s tall and she blocks well and hits well along the front row. She is someone who you can play all the way around on the court.”
Speaks said playing the game at the Division I level will be a big jump from the game played in high school. The move will not be as severe as compared to the elite club volleyball competition in which many of older players are college-level performers. Still, she said, the pace, speed and athleticism of the college game will be different from what she has experienced thus far in her career.
“It’s going to be more upbeat,” she said of the pace of play in college. “When you go from high school to club, there is a huge difference. But playing at the club level, you are playing against players who are going to college. It really helps with when you go to college.”
Speaks did not allow concerns as to her future distract her in helping lead the Lady Bulldogs to another undefeated campaign in Region 6-AAA. But she admitted that worrying about where she would go to college was always in the back of her mind. For that reason, Thursday night was one that she was finally able to exhale after making her decision.
“It’s a huge relief,” she said with a smile. “At the beginning of this club season, (college) was all that I could think about. I couldn’t focus on school as much because I was worried about where I was going to go (to college) and who was going to offer me. It’s a huge relief.”
Wilson said Speaks’ play never suffered due to her concerns as to her future. But when she talked to her setter/hitter, Wilson could sense that Speaks was wondering when things would start clearing up as to her goal of playing college ball.
“This has to be a big relief for Maggie,” Wilson said. “Now, she doesn’t have to worry about (her college plans) anymore. I’m sure this has taken a lot of pressure off her.”
With her college plans secured, even though she has more than a year and a half to prepare for her first day on campus, Maggie Speaks said she cannot help but trying to envision what lies down the road for her. She said it this is an exciting time, while it can also being nerve-wracking as she thinks about her future.
“Kind of both,” she said when asked which is her prevailing emotion. “I’m a little nervous about going to a new place, but I’m also excited that I already know where I’m going and that I don’t have to worry about it anymore.”

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