While the Whitehall Vikings’ volleyball season ended Thursday night with a close semifinal loss to North Branch, at least two Vikings will continue their volleyball careers at the college level next season.
The Whitehall senior duo of Hope Rillema and Autumn Christenson made it official Wednesday afternoon, signing their NCAA letters of intent to play Division I volleyball in the fall of 2013.
Christenson signed to play at Michigan State, while Rillema is headed to Morehead State. Each announcement was made by their respective school with a press release.
Christenson will be one of three Michigan natives to join the Spartans’ five-member recruiting class of 2013, along with Megan Tompkins of Petoskey and Chloe Reinig of South Lyon. The press release identifies Christenson as the all-time leader in Whitehall history in kills, blocks and hitting percentage, and notes that her total of 156 blocks during her freshman season was the second-best total for one year in Vikings’ history.
Christenson will play middle blocker in East Lansing, according to the release.
“Autumn Christenson was set back in her junior year with an injury, but bounced back in her senior season nicely,” MSU coach Cathy George said in the press release. “Her speed, intensity, and competitive spirit really show through in the way she goes about her game. She has a lightning-fast arm that will make her a valuable offensive weapon in the Big Ten.”
This season, Michigan State boasts a 21-7 overall record at press time, with a 9-7 record in the Big Ten.
Rillema, meanwhile, joins a group of four players headed to Morehead State, and is the only one from Michigan, though there is also one player each from Indiana and Illinois in the class.
Rillema was a 2012 Miss Volleyball finalist for Whitehall, only the second one in school history. Despite missing much of October with mononucleosis, she came back strong in the playoffs and helped lead the Vikings to the state semifinals.
The senior chose Morehead State over libero offers from several more prominent programs for the chance to play in both the front and back rows at the college level.
“Hope is such a fun person to have in the gym,” Morehead State coach Jaime Gordon said in the press release. “She plays with a smile on her face that is contagious, which is part of the reason she has led her high school team to new levels each year. She brings a lot of defensive range to her game, and I think will develop into a really strong six-rotation player who leaves everything on the floor.”
Morehead State has had a successful season so far, winning the Ohio Valley Conference regular-season title.
Whitehall coach Ted Edsall has said plenty about his senior stars over the last four years, and was succinct when describing how much the pair has meant to Vikings’ volleyball after Thursday night’s semifinal defeat.
“They’re just awesome,” Edsall said. “It’s been a great ride. I just thank them. It’s been fun.”