Nebraska is one of the top states in the nation per capita for producing college volleyball players at the NCAA Division I level.
We’ll be reminded of that again next week on National Signing Day for college volleyball, when several players will sign on to Division I programs. They include three in-state players who will sign with the Huskers — Omaha Skutt’s Lindsay Krause, Elkhorn South’s Rylee Gray and Waverly’s Whitney Lauenstein.
Still, what’s happening on the volleyball court at Diller-Odell is really something. There are only 27 girls in the high school, but two of them will probably play Division I volleyball.
That would be sisters Addison and Karli Heidemann, who are leading Class D-2’s No. 1 team into the state tournament this week.
And this small-town story gets better. The Heidemanns live on a farm just outside of Harbine, a small village on U.S. 136 between Beatrice and Fairbury.
“It’s tiny. There a few houses there,” said Addison Heidemann of Harbine.
But that village can claim a couple of nationally ranked volleyball recruits.
Addison Heidemann is a setter who will join the Iowa State volleyball team next fall as a walk-on. She’s ranked 127th in the nation in the senior class by PrepVolleyball.com.
Karli Heidemann is a hard-hitting, 6-foot-2 outside hitter. She’s only a sophomore, so her college recruiting won’t get serious until this summer, but she’s ranked No. 63 nationally in her class. Prepdig.com lists her as the No. 2 player in the state in her class.
The recruiting rankings are largely based on club volleyball tournaments, and the Heidemanns play for Volleyball Club Nebraska, the Lincoln-based club founded by former Nebraska setter Maggie Griffin.
While Diller-Odell has been a successful program, the odds aren’t high for what’s happened for a team playing in the smallest of Nebraska’s six classes.
“It’s not very common that you get two Division I athletes out of a small, D-2 school,” said Diller-Odell coach Reba Hestermann.
Addison Heidemann credits both her club team and high school, along with having played for so long.
“I come from a small school, so basically everyone starts playing sports when they’re really young,” she said.
During a club tryout Griffin felt like Addison Heidemann could be a good setter, and they worked for several years to develop those skills. Once she reached high school, Iowa State coaches saw her play and invited her to attend one of their summer camps.
During the club season the family makes the one-hour trip to Lincoln about three times per week.
There also were opportunities for them to improve in open gym sessions at Diller-Odell — there were good players there, too. There are only 11 players out for volleyball, but several of them play club, either for Nebraska Juniors or VCN. Many of the schools in Class D aren’t that close to a city that have multiple options for a club volleyball experience.
Another senior, outside hitter Ava Lovitt, is committed to play at Hastings.
Karli Heidemann earned all-state honors as a freshman last season when Diller-Odell won the Class D-1 state championship, and is the go-to player for the Griffins this season.
“I think (Karli) can go high-tier Division I volleyball. She has the potential,” her sister said.
Karli Heidemann has 454 kills this season with a .415 hitting percentage. She’s averaging a remarkable 5.3 kills per set. Her season high for kills was 30 against Falls City Sacred Heart.
Diller-Odell won state last year but had a lot of work to do this season to replace starters at both middle blocker and libero. Also, head coach Kandice Jurgens stepped down after winning state so she could have more time to watch her daughter, Madison, play for the South Dakota volleyball team. Hestermann was previously an assistant at the school.