Drew Norberg looked right at home decked out in the Kent State blue and gold this week.
Sure the colors are the same, but the feeling runs deeper than that. The South Tahoe state champion has found a new volleyball family at Kent State.
“Their athletic department is just really good. All their sports are used to winning, and I want to be around that mentality,” Norberg said back when she verbally committed. “The other girls were awesome, and I just felt comfortable. I already felt like I had been on the team just after two days.”
Norberg signed her official letter of intent and will likely start for the Division I volleyball team this fall. She is the first South Tahoe student to receive a full-ride Division I athletic scholarship in more than a decade. For anyone who saw her on the volleyball court, the Division I offer should come as no surprise.
“The most amazing thing was that everybody knew that Drew was going to hit every ball, but in two years nobody stopped her,” South Tahoe coach Dan McLaughlin said. “I mean they started guarding her when she came out of the locker room and it just didn’t matter.”
All season opponents knew what was coming, a devastating kill with enough speed to knock a girl off her feet, but all season Norberg couldn’t be stopped. She led her team all the way to the end — an improbable state title.
Norberg’s unstoppable will to win and athletic ability are exactly the combination Kent State head coach Don Gromala, or any coach for that matter, looks for in a Division I athlete.
“She’s been a go-to hitter on a state championship team,” Gromala said. “We like to call them the pressure moments when the game is on the line, and she’s been in those moments, which will be a testament to what she will do for us in the future.”
Gromala took over the Kent State volleyball program in April 2012. He was assistant coach at Ohio State for four years, and during his last two seasons there, Gromala helped lead the team to Sweet 16 twice.
It won’t happen overnight, but Gromala has big plans for the Kent State volleyball team.
“They’ve never won a MAC (Mid-America Conference) championship so that’s our goal to start building toward that in the next couple years by bringing in some new recruits and just trying to do some things differently with our offense and defense,” Gromala said.
Norberg will be a piece to that championship puzzle. She is quick and athletic, but it’s the intangibles that earned her one of four coveted freshmen spots on the team.
“The thing that really jumped out to us was just how hard of a worker she was on the court,” Gromala said.
The coach has every intention of putting that work ethic to the test this fall. Norberg will probably see significant starting time as a middle hitter in her freshman year, Gromala said.
“We brought here in here with intentions of her having an opportunity to play right away as a freshman,” Gromala said. “I think she’s definitely got a great chance to start as a freshman, but it all just kind of depends on how things shake out with her comfort level with the rest of the team and the setters, and what happens with the other players coming in and how well they compete in practices.”
But like she’s shown for the past four years, Norberg is a competitor and her home turf is any volleyball court. Her former South Tahoe coach has seen it.
“I have no fear. I know you’re going to do well because you’re good,” McLaughlin said to Norberg. “I’d like to think it’s the coaching, but I think it might be the talent to be honest.”