The first out of Ormond Beach's volleyball program to play competitively, Mariah Zirkelbach signed a scholarship with Lake-Sumter State College in the same gym where she first started playing volleyball.
BY MATT MENCARINI | STAFF WRITER
Mariah Zirkelbach had home-court advantage Saturday, when she signed a volleyball scholarship in the very gym where she first started playing the game.
Inside the Nova Community Center, surrounded by friends and family, Zirkelbach signed with Lake-Sumter State College Feb. 2. Her signing table was set up less than 40 feet from where she sat on her very first day in Ormond Beach’s volleyball program, which was, and still is, coached by Gerry Pitchford, the first person to speak during the signing ceremony.
“She was the first one to come back and coach,” Pitchford said. “She was the first one to play competitive volleyball that came out of this program. ... Now, this year, we had 30 former (players) from my program playing competitively.”
During her sophomore season at Seabreeze, where she was a four-year starter, Zirkelbach tore her labrum. She finished the season, unaware of what she had done.
After finally having surgery, she was forced to miss eight months, most of her club's season, and begin rehabbing her shoulder for the high school season.
When she was given the go-ahead to start playing again — she remembers the day exactly: it was when the last Harry Potter movie was released — she visited Nova Community Center to work through the scar tissue.
Zirkelbach will be one of 13 freshman playing for Jennie Belarmino’s Lake-Sumter team next season, and one of four defensive players in that group.
“This is our first recruiting class to Lake-Sumter,” Belarmino said. “So we’re expecting a lot of great things from her.”
But Zirkelbach didn't start getting serious about playing in college until “late in the game,” she says, partly because she wasn't sure how to go about being recruited by coaches.
“I don’t know if it’s just our location, but unless you live in a city like Orlando, or unless you play football, no one really tells you how to do the recruiting process,” she said. “Unless you have a club coach who knows what they’re doing, you don’t really know.”
But like many things, the Internet provided a solution, which in Zirkelbach’s case was a recruiting website onto which she could post game film, stats and contact information.
She said Lake-Sumter was the first team that started to show an interest in her, which had a lot to do with why she made her decision.
“They seem to have a growing program,” Zirkelbach said. “And I feel like I can help them reach higher and win and have a great season.”
Zirkelbach was named the Ormond Beach Lions Club Athlete of the Month Feb. 5, for January.