Clark, Szczepanski sign with Wabash Valley College for Softball, Volleyball
Lady Panthers Mariah Clark (softball) and Olivia Szczepanski (volleyball) will continue their careers at Wabash Valley College. (Doug Daniels Photos)
By Doug Daniels
1351sports.com / pinckneyvillesports.com
January 30, 2018
(Pinckneyville, Ill.) - Two Pinckneyville Community High School seniors have signed letters of intent to continue their athletic and academic careers at Wabash Valley College in Mount Carmel, Illinois - Mariah Clark (softball) and Olivia Szczepanski (volleyball).
Clark has been the Lady Panthers' top pitcher for three seasons, including last spring when PCHS advanced all the way to the State Final Tournament where they finished fourth. She's also the team's most powerful hitter, slugging 11 home runs last year as a junior. She becomes the third member of her class to sign a college softball scholarship.
"Before you even get to the softball stuff, she's just a tremendous individual from a character standpoint, and has developed leadership over the years," said PCHS head softball coach Alan Engelhardt. "That's one of the biggest things, she's a soft-spoken kid, wants to always do right, so it's hard sometimes to become a leader, but I think she's definitely done that for us. That's a big, big thing. When you throw that on top of the way she can throw and hit a softball, then you've got a great combination."
"With the level of competition she plays throughout the year, I think she'll be able to jump right in and help them immediately. When you throw with the velocity that she has, and you get her into a great program like they have, they'll be able to take her even further than what we've been able to do with her."
Clark said the decision was difficult but after multiple visits to both Wabash and John A. Logan, it was something WVC head coach Paul Schnarre said to her that sealed the deal.
"He looked me straight in the eyes and said 'I will make you an All-American,' and I was like, 'Alright, let's do it," said Clark. "I think it's a stepping stone for my dream. They promised me they could get me to the next level, and I think this is a good way to get to the next level, but still have a little bit of time to learn, and become as good as I need to become for a potential D1 offer."
Szczepanski has been the starting varsity libero for the Lady Panthers volleyball team the past two seasons, including this past fall when Pinckneyville earned a Regional championship, and a conference championship.
"She had over 400 digs for us this year, and she definitely knows how to pass the ball," said PCHS head volleyball coach Cathy Kohnen. "I have no doubt that she's going to be able to take whatever the college girls throw at her."
"She's an amazing girl, she works very hard, she's a very intense player. She works hard in the classroom and on the court. I'm very happy to see her excel and continue to the next level, and I look forward to watching her in the years to come. I know she's going to do an awesome job for Wabash both academically and athletically."
Szczepanski said the opportunity to expand her horizons in a new, unfamiliar location played a major part in her decision-making process.
"I'm very excited, it's truly a privilege to sign and play volleyball at the next level," said Szczepanski. "I wanted to be in a new area where I could meet new people, have new experiences. The coaching staff at Wabash is great, they'll really challenge me and push me to be my best."
Szczepanski is the first of her PCHS class to sign with a college for volleyball, but Kohnen added that negotiations with other Pinckneyville athletes involved with volleyball are still ongoing.