Over the 14 weeks of the OU women's volleyball season, SoonerSports.com will run a feature article on each of the 14 student-athletes on the 2003 squad. Beginning with the freshman and ending with the seniors, the focus will be on the personalities that encompass the dynamic young team. Up first is freshman Joanna Schmitt who hales from Deerfield, Wis., and is powerful outside hitter.
When looking at the roster for this season's Oklahoma volleyball team, fans are sure to notice all the newcomers. OU head coach Kalani Mahi, who calls his incoming class of 10 the best he's ever recruited, has six freshmen in camp who are trying to make their mark. One of the fresh faces to the squad is outside hitter Joanna Schmitt.
Schmitt comes from the small town of Cottage Grove, Wis., where she was highly recruited out of Deerfield High School. Schmitt was a back-to-back All-State and all-conference performer during her final two years as a prep. In the Wisconsin state playoffs her senior season she recorded 61 kills in the first round, 65 in the second. A remarkable feat considering 20 kills is an outstanding performance in the college game. She followed up the first two rounds with 44 kills in the semifinals and 21 in the state finals. Schmitt also excelled on Deerfield's track and field team, which she helped win the Trailways Conference three times. Schmitt was accustomed to success at Deerfield, as she lettered in basketball, volleyball and track 10 times and won conference six of those seasons.
With the season fast approaching, Schmitt is excited for her first season in the Oklahoma volleyball program and is looking forward to contributing in many ways.
'I want to help out as much as possible, whether it be on the court or on the bench cheering. I just want to contribute,' said Schmitt.
Since Schmitt signed a national letter of intent last fall, the OU coaching staff has predicted that she would be one of the most animated players to hit the McCasland Field House floor in years.
'When I'm on the court I love to celebrate with my teammates,' said Schmitt. 'I want to show people how much I love to play volleyball. Whatever my role is on the team, I want to do it with enthusiasm.'
Athletics will be just part of the college experience that will be challenging to Schmitt, along with a new academic and social life.
'I'm hoping to get a lot of experience in practice and games,' explained the 5-10 phenom. ' I'm a little short for an outside hitter, which wasn't much of a problem at the high school level. I know it will be challenging now. Going from two-a-days, to classes and then taking road trips will be new, but I think all freshmen go through the experience.'
Helping Schmitt with any homesickness will be her family.
'We have always been a very close-knit family,' said Schmitt who is one of seven siblings. 'My parents will be making a lot of 14-hour trips down to Norman to see my games.'
Schmitt came from an athletic family, where high school sports were a rite of passage for all eight children. Her older brother, Justin, pitched for the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and is a phone call away if his little sister needs advice about the collegiate athletics experience.
Schmitt has only recently moved to Norman but she says her teammates will be a big help when it comes to missing home.
'We have a lot of really nice girls on this team and I'm really looking forward to having a lot of fun with them and creating many memories,' said Schmitt.
Schmitt's new teammates will soon discover how superstitious she is when it comes to volleyball matches.
'I have to play music before games,' described Schmitt. 'During my senior year in high school, I wore the same socks for every match. I always wore the same hair ties, ate the same foods and put a metal star in my sock for good luck. If I wasn't consistent for every match I thought we might lose. I'm going to continue with all these superstitions with the hopes of continued success.'
Schmitt is confident about this season's prospects, thanks in large part to the OU coaching staff that sold her on the program last year during recruiting trips.
'I love the coaches here,' said Schmitt. 'Christy (Mahi), Kalani, and Josh (Ivans) were the difference from the other schools. They sold me on the way they were building the team, their morals and the concerns for the players academically and athletically.'
Schmitt thought the way the coaching staff related to her as a person was very special.
'They made me feel like it was all about the person, instead of all about the athlete,' said Schmitt.
After only a short time, Schmitt can already confidently say she is embracing Sooner life. She is more than happy to get away from Green Bay Packer country.
'I love football, but I was never was a Packer fan,' said Schmitt. 'I am really looking forward to the upcoming Sooner football season.'
Schmitt believes her freshman year on the volleyball court will be one of her more memorable experiences. The new-look Sooners bring a lot of hope and promise.
Schmitt is ready to take the Sooner program to Big 12 and national prominence. Her biggest concern, besides an 8 a.m. class, will be adjusting to the Oklahoma temperatures.
'I'm really anticipating a good year and I hope I don't melt in the heat like a block of Wisconsin cheese,' joked Schmitt.