Volleyball Players Signs with Colleges

601b0806cb326.imageGrace Frigaard had to make a lot of adjustments in 2020, and the James Wood volleyball senior couldn’t be happier with how everything turned out.

The outside hitter signed a National Letter of Intent to play indoor and beach volleyball for NCAA Division I University of Tennessee at Chattanooga during a ceremony in James Wood’s auditorium last week.

The 6-foot Frigaard will receive a full scholarship for her first two years from the Southern Conference school, and will have the opportunity to receive additional scholarship money beyond that. Frigaard will major in sociology.

“My goal since my freshman year was to play at the highest level of volleyball I could while still getting an amazing education, and get that paid for,” said Frigaard in a phone interview. “At Chattanooga, I’m getting those things, and I’ll be with amazing coaches and people.

“And I’m super excited I can play beach. I’ve played beach over the past two summers, and it helps my indoor [play] so much. It’s really helped my defense, my passing and my reading [of the action].”

Frigaard is the second James Wood senior to sign with an NCAA Division I school during the 2020-21 school year. Lainie Putt, a senior opposite, will play for St. Francis College in New York next year.

Frigaard — who will next suit up for the Colonels in the Frederick County fall season that will take place March 29-April 24 — is coming off a junior season in which she earned Region 4C and Class 4 Northwestern District first team honors.

The four-year varsity player was originally set on going to NCAA Division I Radford University of the Big South, having made a verbal commitment to the Highlanders in September of 2019.

But Radford — which does not have a beach volleyball program — decided to go with a new coach in February of 2020, which was one of several things that ultimately led to Frigaard picking a new school.

In that same month, Frigaard had shoulder surgery for a torn right labrum, which kept her out until last summer for beach volleyball season. It’s Frigaard’s right arm that was responsible for her ranking third in the area with 209 kills and recording 51 aces in 2019, but the injury helped her become effective at hitting with her left hand.

“I started off just passing [when I came back],” Frigaard said. “I couldn’t hit. It made me so mad. It was so frustrating not to be able to hit. But then I forced myself to play with my left hand, and now it’s really a weapon. Obviously, I’m still much better with my right hand, but I can hit with my left hand. I worked really hard to be able to pass and hit lefty.”

Last fall, she began looking for a new volleyball club team and she reached out to Virginia Juniors, which is based in Herndon.

The club’s recruiting director, Jharred Tulloch, connected Frigaard with Chattanooga’s coaching staff in early October, and after multiple conversations the Mocs offered Frigaard a scholarship at the end of October. Two months later, she decided to accept it.

Because of extensions to the NCAA Division I recruiting dead period that were caused by COVID-19, Frigaard hasn’t been able to meet with Chattanooga’s coaches in person. Frigaard also had to cancel a couple of trips to Tennessee, so she hasn’t had a chance to physically visit the Chattanooga campus.

But the conversations she’s had with the coaches, current players and other members of her recruiting class has her feeling good about Chattanooga.

“Not going to Radford and committing to Chattanooga really turned out to be a blessing,” Frigaard said. “Everything I’ve heard about Chattanooga is amazing, and I’m super excited to be a part of the family there.

“I’ve talked to all three of their coaches over Zoom. All their coaching styles and technical qualities that they bring are very different. But they work really well together, and I’m just really excited to be coached by such knowledgeable coaches.”

The indoor volleyball team is led by Travis Filar. The Mocs went 7-23 overall and 2-14 in the Southern Conference in their last full season in 2019, but they are 4-0 (2-0 Southern) in their 18-match 2020-21 season that will end in March. The 10th-year head coach has had success in the past, leading Chattanooga to the 2015 conference championship.

601b0806a3668.imageThe beach volleyball program at Chattanooga only got to play three matches (going 0-3) in its inaugural 2020 season before COVID-19 shut down college athletics last March. The Mocs are led by head coach Darin Van Horn, who also serves as an indoor assistant coach.

“There aren’t many schools that offer both [beach and indoor],” Frigaard said. “And some schools, there’s not as much flexibility to play indoor and beach. If I had committed to another school, I may have had to choose between indoor and beach. But this has just been a really exciting opportunity that I can play both and the coaches are flexible and encourage it.

“I’ve seen such a change with how much beach has impacted my indoor play on defense. In beach, there are only two people on the court, so you will touch the ball every play.”

Frigaard is looking forward to showing off her improved skills during the upcoming Frederick County fall season. For now, James Wood will have eight play dates, including six tri competitions with Millbrook and Sherando.

“I’m just so happy that we have a season at all,” Frigaard said. “It will be very different, but I’m just really excited that we’re making the best of it.”

McGuire to play for Washington and LeeJames Wood senior hitter Alyssah McGuire also signed during last week’s ceremony and will play for NCAA Division III Washington and Lee University in Lexington.

The Generals went 24-10 overall and 9-3 in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference in their most recent season in 2019. W&L advanced to the ODAC semifinals.

A two-year varsity player and captain, McGuire helped the Colonels go 23-5 overall and 14-0 in the district last year. The Colonels captured the district regular-season and tournament titles and advanced to the Class 4 state quarterfinals.

McGuire will double major in business administration and cognitive behavioral science.

— Contact Robert Niedzwiecki at
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