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Knoch volleyball star Sanks glad to end recruitment trail

| Saturday, May 25, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Erica Hilliard | Valley News Dispatch
Knoch's Celina Sanks celebrates with her teammates after scoring against Freeport earlier this season.

As she went deeper into the volleyball recruiting process, Knoch junior Celina Sanks felt more and more of an urge to say sorry.

For all but one team, Sanks realized, recruitment reached an awkward, thanks-but-no-thanks moment.

Sweet-natured, she wondered if she ought to apologize.

The downside of garnering attention from Division I programs became apparent to Sanks, who verbally committed to Eastern Kentucky in late April after months of interacting with other programs, including Eastern Michigan, Toledo, Lafayette and Georgetown.

She struggled at times with the stress.

“It was a lot whenever everybody started contacting me,” Sanks said. “It was tough for me to tell all these people that were showing interest in me that I didn't think they were a good fit. … I was a little wary at first, because I wasn't used to that.”

The 5-foot-10 all-WPIAL Class AA and all-state outside hitter visited Eastern Kentucky twice before she made her decision. She found Eastern Kentucky's tight-knit team dynamic alluring enough that it swayed her.

But she also enjoyed the experiences she had during formal visits to Eastern Michigan, Toledo and Lafayette.

So many teams showed interest, which Sanks considered particularly strange because she only recently began to envision herself as a Division I volleyball player.

Through much of her adolescence, Sanks loved basketball above all other sports.

In seventh grade, her mother encouraged her to try volleyball. Sanks reluctantly agreed to attend a few practices.

Her feelings about the sport quickly shifted for the better, and during the summer before eighth grade, she increased her commitment to volleyball by joining Pittsburgh Elite, a Junior Olympic travel club.

Still, she held basketball close to her heart and expected as many college opportunities from hoops as from volleyball.

As a sophomore, Sanks was a star in volleyball.

Her success in basketball paled in comparison.

For her junior year, Sanks chose to sacrifice basketball and focus on volleyball full-time.

Talk of volleyball scholarships started.

“I think that's the last thing I thought would ever come out of me playing high school volleyball, coming out of middle school and not even wanting to play,” she said.

“People always asked, ‘Where are you going to go?' And my answer for the longest time was, ‘Whoever will take me.'”

Her parents helped her weigh the mounting collection of college options. They never ruled out a destination, Sanks said — no college was too far away.

“I personally feel I do well with distance,” said Sanks, who noted that the drive to Eastern Kentucky, located in Richmond, Ky., takes about seven hours.

Sanks plans to major in fashion merchandising and retail sales. Her aspiration is to be a merchant for a fashion company. She's eager to fret about fashion's latest trends.

She won't miss the days of stressing about college selection.

“No more e-mails and no more visits,” Sanks said with a sigh. “But I still have to keep the grades up and keep pushing.”

Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at wwest@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BWest_Trib.

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