ONEKAMA — When one particular school reached out to Colleen McCarthy, she knew her recruiting path was pretty much set.

The Onekama multi-sport star grew up going to Notre Dame football games, so when the Fighting Irish’s sister school, practically across the street, showed interest, that all but ended McCarthy’s search.

Both of her grandmothers attended Notre Dame, and her family has a history with the school. St. Mary’s College is also located in Notre Dame, Ind.

“I wanted to carry on the tradition a little bit,” McCarthy said.

Although St. Mary’s doesn’t have a player from the area on the volleyball roster until McCarthy shows up, the Belles have a good recent history with northern Michigan athletes. Kingsley’s Kelsie Bies plays on the basketball team, and TC West’s Hunter Kehoe and TC St. Francis’ Katherine Hopkins are on the golf team, and West’s Taylor Kehoe finished her college golf career there in 2019.

The St. Mary volleyball roster features plenty of players from the Midwest, but also from as far away at California and New Mexico to the west and Rhode Island to the east. McCarthy stayed overnight in a late December recruiting visit.

“They were all extremely welcoming and nice,” said McCarthy, a 4.0 student who plans to major in business. “I was excited to see they’re from all over the country and to be at a school with so much diversity.”

St. Mary’s reached out to McCarthy at the beginning of basketball season, and she committed right before district play began. She called the coach back to verbally accept the Belles’ offer on the way back from the Portagers’ regular-season finale at Mason County Central.

She had also been recruited by school such as Case Western and John Carroll.

The volleyball and basketball teams at Onekama comprise mostly the same players, so her teammates were able to share in the experience of McCarthy becoming the first Portagers volleyball player in program history to accept a college playing offer.

Mikayla Haske received offers four years ago, but chose to row for Eastern Michigan University instead.

“It’s great for us seeing her move on to the next level,” Onekama coach Linda Elo said. “Once she gets on the court, she elevates play.”

McCarthy is one of only two recruits for a young 13-16 Belles team that graduated only one senior. The 5-foot-10 outside hitter joins a middle blocker as St. Mary’s only other signed player.

The Belles have three outside hitters returning next season, all of whom were freshmen or sophomores last season, plus two dedicated right-side hitters.

McCarthy ends her Onekama career with 1,374 career kills, and also played travel ball for NorthShore.

“They really helped me grow as a person and a player,” McCarthy said. “I’m sad I can’t play my last season with them.”

Elo describes McCarthy as a “heavy-armed hitter” who can hit around, through and off blocks and also plays the full rotation, averaging 2.4 digs per set and serving at a 92-percent clip.

McCarthy appeared on the Michigan Interscholastic Volleyball Coaches Association’s all-state teams twice, as an honorable mention selection as a junior after leading the Portagers to a district title, and on the third team as a senior, becoming the first Portager to earn all-state in volleyball.

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