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College Volleyball: Rinicker named 2nd team All-America

Sophomore middle hitter Megan Rinicker is honored by the NJCAA.

Player bumps the ball.
Central Lakes College's Megan Rinicker digs a ball against Itasca on Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2022, at Brainerd.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
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CHARLOTTE, North Carolina — Central Lakes College sophomore Megan Rinicker was named to the NJCAA Division III volleyball All-America second team.

The middle hitter finished third in the nation with a .388 hitting percentage. She played in 97 sets and finished with 378 kills or 3.9 kills per set. She added 13 set assists, 43 ace serves, 135 digs and 81 total blocks.

“She didn’t miss that often,” Raiders head coach Jane Peterson said. “She has the ability to get on top of the ball so she’s hitting it down and not out. She has good vision. She has multiple shots. She’s not always hitting the same way, angle, spot or speed.”

The six-rotation player from Henning High School led the Raiders to the No. 5 ranking in the final NJCAA Division III poll. A big reason was her defense. She collected 236 serve receives with only 15 errors.

Central Lakes College volleyball against Itasca on Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2022, at Brainerd.
Central Lakes College's Megan Rinicker goes up for a kill against Itasca on Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2022, at Brainerd.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

“She was a super consistent passer,” Peterson said. “There’s just not that many middle hitters in our conference that do go all the way around and are effective doing it. It’s a physical toll. Being a middle hitter/blocker takes a lot of work. That was a question at the beginning. Could she physically handle it? She’s just somebody who never gives up. There were a couple of matches where I rested her on purpose and she didn’t really want to, but her ability to be consistent everywhere -- not just passing but defensively, too, and as a leader, and a blocker and an attacker makes her really deserving.”

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Peterson recalled visiting a Henning practice during a summer day a few years ago. She turned to the Henning coach and asked who was recruiting Rinicker and where she going to go to college. The coach replied "nowhere."

“I just went ‘what,’” Peterson asked surprised. “‘Then I am.’ When they played in the state tournament she was younger and she was maybe overshadowed by the older players, but I could see as soon as I saw her just the aggressiveness she had on every single ball. It took about 10 seconds to realize she was just an intense, hard-working person.”

Rinicker was an instant success in Brainerd. She helped the team to a 23-10 record during the 2021 Fall. She finished with 290 kills in 108 sets for a 2.69 kills-per-set average. Her hitting percentage was .339. She added 14 set assists, 19 ace serves, 162 digs and 67 total blocks playing alongside Haley Schleper, who Peterson said had a big influence on Rinicker.

CLC Volleyball players against Northland Community and Technical College on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022, at Brainerd.
CLC's Megan Rinicker prepares to serve against Northland Community and Technical College on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022, at Brainerd.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

The Raiders won the consolation title at the NJCAA National Tournament her freshman season.

This year, CLC finished 15-14, but six of those losses were forfeits due to a roster-computer glitch. Rinicker helped the Raiders overcome the adversity and still make the Region 13 playoffs thanks to a 3-0 victory over Alexandria Technical in the last game of the regular season.

Rinicker finished with 11 kills, nine digs, one set assist, one ace serve and one block.

“Like lots of young women trying to find their place, I think lots of young women struggle with confidence,” Peterson said. “Even when people around them look at them and think they look confident and of course, they’d be confident. They have everything going for them and I’m not just talking about Megan, it’s lots of people that I coach who should have more confidence if should is the right word. I think she really grew in the mental game believing in herself.

“I talked a lot with Megan about her being enough and what she does is enough. Someone like that, who is an achiever, and always wants more. I talked with her a lot about being satisfied with good games and not wanting more. I think with her mental game she grew a lot and also as a leader.

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“She is not a naturally loud person or talkative person. She definitely was someone everyone looked up to because of her consistency. You know what you were getting. She developed that way as a leader.”

Peterson called it a joy to coach a player like Rinicker who showed up every day with the intention of getting better as a player and person. Peterson called it rare to see an athlete play for two years and graduate with a registered nursing degree in two years.

“She had to prepare to do that and she had a big course load every semester,” Peterson said. “It’s just really an admirable feat.”

JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 218-855-5856 or jeremy.millsop@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jeremymillsop.

Related Topics: LOCAL SPORTSCENTRAL LAKES COLLEGEVOLLEYBALL
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