Liz Campbell is finally growing accustomed to playing in front of a crowd.
Clipboard-toting scouts hardly faze her at all now, but with hoards of heady recruiting attention comes inescapable pressure.
“I think about it a lot,” Shawnee High School’s 6-foot setting sensation said. “All the e-mails come into my phone. I see all the e-mails. It all started so soon. It’s a lot (to take in).”
With college coaches routinely scattered among the Braves’ volleyball faithful, every match becomes an audition — a scholarship opportunity in the making — for Campbell, a junior who’s receiving rabid recruiting attention from more than 20 Division I schools.
The deluge began during her freshman year with a letter and brochure from Toledo … and became absolutely mind-blowing from there, prompting her father, John, to create her own website.
“It’s pretty hard,” Campbell said. “Having started so young with (all of this), it’s just been hard having all these different coaches watching you — coaches liking you and you liking them (and having to eventually decide).”
Tennessee, Pittsburgh, Eastern Kentucky, Rutgers, San Diego State and Appalachian State are among the programs vying for rights to Campbell, whose 813 assists in 2012 led the Central Buckeye Conference and set a single-season school record.
The Junior Olympic standout was an honorable mention selection to Topical Gear’s Soph 79 list of the country’s top sophomores and was named first-team All-CBC. Her 39 blocks and 217 digs sparked Shawnee to a 19-5 record, including an 18-4, regular-season run.
“She’s very team-oriented, very focused,” said Braves coach Britney Hensley, a 2004 Shawnee graduate. “She definitely does everything asked of her to 110 percent effort. She’s definitely hard on herself — sets a very high standard for herself with very strict goals, and she has definitely improved from last year.”
An Ohio Air National Guard member stationed with the 123rd Air Control Squadron in Blue Ash, Hensley has deployed twice, in 2007 and 2008, as part of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. The 27-year-old military veteran values Campbell’s rare, internal motivation and drive.
“Liz is taking charge of the court now and being more vocal, which is definitely out of her comfort zone,” said Hensley, a disciplined, often intimidating task-master who works at Beightler Armory in Columbus.
“The biggest thing about Liz is that she’s extremely coachable. She definitely responds and reacts. She’s harder on herself than I have to be, and she’s definitely a great athlete.”
The University of Toledo, Florida Gulf Coast and Marshall (W. Va.) head Campbell’s fluid top-three list, but San Diego State has gained ground following a recent school visit.
“My top three are the ones who’ve talked to me the most,” said Campbell, who hopes to make a decision before her senior year. “I want to play Division I, but small Division I. … San Diego — it’s like five minutes to the beach or 10 minutes to the mountains. I liked the location and warmth. It’s probably my favorite.
“I’d like to either go someplace warm or closer to home — maybe South,” she added. “Seeing all of these different coaches have interest in me makes me feel like all the hard work is definitely paying off.”
Shawnee returns six letter-winners and four starters from last year’s CBC champion, Kenton Trail Division squad, which won 16 of its first 17 matches before stumbling to 4-7 down the stretch.
“I definitely think we have the potential to win the conference again,” Hensley said. “We’re young. Our biggest thing is working on staying consistent. We have talent and potential beyond our years.”
The Braves are switching from a 5-1 to a 6-2 offense due primarily to the strength of 5-6 sophomore setter Karlee Sine.
“She has definitely stepped up to the plate,” Hensley said. “She is an all-around smart player who gives 110 percent.”
Freshman Gabrielle Barnes (5-9), sophomore Molly McCrory (5-9) and junior Alexandria Barnes (5-7) provide a bulk of the offense.
Alexandria Barnes averaged 1.1 kills and 2.52 digs per game a year ago, while McCrory pestered for 132 kills, 34 blocks and a .350 kill percentage.
“We want to be CBC champs again this year and we’re trying to make it to districts and win,” Campbell said. “Running a 6-2 this year, I’m getting a chance to block, hit, set — do a little of everything. I like being able to set and hit.”
Sophomore libero Taylor Yontz, a 5-7 defensive wiz with a 25-inch vertical jump, gives the Braves sustained rally power after scampering for 270 digs and 1,077 passes in 2012.
Lone senior Morgan Reynolds provides veteran leadership.
“Last year we were very dependent (offensively) on one person,” said Hensley, referring to 2013 grad Lauren Hogan, last fall’s CBC kill leader with 395. “This year we have so many different players whose strengths are others’ weaknesses. Any success will be a very team-oriented success, and as a coach, you can’t ask for much more.”