By Ryan Kaczmarski
The volleyball program at Magnificat High School is consistently one of the best in Northeast Ohio and produces many college-bound athletes, so it is no surprise that Blue Streaks senior Cayley Balser has signed a national letter of intent to play at Clemson University next fall.
“I chose Clemson because it has a gorgeous campus and is in South Carolina, where it is a lot warmer there than it is in Northeast Ohio,” Balser said. “I also chose it because the coaches are great and are very knowledgeable.
“The Clemson University volleyball team is made up of girls who are very nice and welcoming, something that is important as we will be spending a lot of time together. I believe that Clemson University has the perfect balance of athletics and academics for me. I get the opportunity to play for a competitive, Division I university in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and be able to participate in the honors program, a challenge that I am looking forward to. Another major factor is that I will get to play against my sister Brittney, who goes to Duke University, because we have been on the same team one year, but have never played against each other.”
Balser had considered possibly going to Colorado State University, as well as some Southeastern Conference and other ACC schools. She was contacted by over 50 Division I schools, which made her decision a tough one to make.
“My parents and sister helped me make the decision,” she said. “My sister shared what her college experience has been like so far, and helped me to realize what kind of college I want to go to. My parents went on visits with me and helped me to figure out what I want out of the next four years of my life and we all agreed that Clemson is the best fit for me. It was very hard to decide, knowing that I was making a decision that would affect the rest of my life when I was only a junior in high school.”
Balser feels that her time at Magnificat has prepared her to move on to college, both in the gymnasium and in the classroom.
“Magnificat volleyball helped to prepare me for the next level, because practices were always very competitive as everyone plays club (volleyball) to get better in the off season,” she said. “Junior varsity and varsity (teams) practice together, which strengthens the whole program and each individual player, and the coaches are very encouraging. The Blue Streaks play a very competitive schedule, as we play the top teams in the state.
“As for the classroom, Magnificat offers a multitude of advanced placement and honors courses, as well as many electives, so students are ready for college-level work by the time they graduate.”
She also knows she would have the luxury of choosing which Division I school she wants to go to without the support and encouragement of her parents and sister.
“I would not be where I am today without them, because they were the ones who drove me to all the tournaments, practices, training, and stayed up with me when I was finishing my homework on those late nights after practices,” Balser stated. “My sister has also been a huge influence in my life as she is the one who got me playing volleyball in the first place. We have done everything together, even getting our first-degree black belts in Tae Kwon Do before she left for college, so it always motivated me to want to be like her, without being the exact same person that she is.”
Playing volleyball at Magnificat, and with her club team, has given her experience against some of the best high school competition.
“I have learned and trained to play above the net – I touch 10 feet, 2 inches – which is important, because when you get to the college level, the game is played above the net,” she said.
She feels that she will need to work on her speed and strength to be successful at the next level.
“I’m excited to start the next chapter in my life and I couldn’t have done it without the support of my family and the many coaches and teammates who have pushed me to be the best that I can,” she concluded.