ANNA — Two accomplished Lady Coyote volleyball players who have traveled the country pursuing excellence in their game took a huge step together on Monday, April 16, at Anna High School. Micaela Cornelius and Taylor Medrick signed National Letters of Intent to continue their education and athletic careers at the college level — Cornelius at Iowa Lakes Community College and Medrick at Ouachita Baptist University.

Surrounded by admiring teammates, coaches and family, the girls made it official. “This is a proud moment for me to see these girls sign,” Anna head volleyball coach Tomika Crosby said.

Both Medrick and Cornelius have traveled the U.S. with their club teams in recent years and, in addition to their Lady Coyote exploits, their dedication to this game has served them well.

A middle-hitter for Anna, the 5-11 Medrick was District 11-4A’s Blocker of Year last season and a second-team all-district pick as a junior.

OBU, she said, is where she’s always wanted to go. “The education system there is amazing, and the graduation rate. I fell in love with it at the beginning and we were just kind of waiting for the volleyball to follow. Once it did, I knew that’s exactly where I wanted to go. The campus is gorgeous and the people are great.”

Located in Arkadelphia, Ark., OBU’s NCAA Division II Lady Tigers compete in the Great American Conference.

“Taylor came in as a junior,” Crosby said, “and began blocking that ball and being a great defensive player for us. She’s been a great addition. … She was one of those players that could see the court, see the floor, and she kind of knew what side hitters were going to swing to. She could adjust in the air on her blocks.”

Medrick also played forward for Lady Coyotes basketball and is currently on the track team.

She was joined at the signing by parents Jeff and Tiffany Medrick, brother Jarrett and grandparents Bob and Lea Adams. “Personally, I’m excited,” Jeff said. “I’m ready for her to go off to college and start doing what she’s supposed to be doing. It makes my parenting a little easier. … God has blessed her with a talent and it’s up to her to mature it and see it grow.

“The last three years with her club, the kids have gotten to see the country and call it a vacation. … East Coast, West Coast, we’ve been all over now.” Jeff added that after road trips to Minneapolis, Atlanta and Salt Lake City, driving to Arkadelphia will be a breeze.

“[OBU] is actually her first choice,” Tiffany said. “I know a lot of kids want to go big, go to D-1 and everything. But she has always wanted to go to Oauchita when she started playing volleyball. It’s just the right size and she likes the community. Plus, it has that spiritual background as well.”

As for the long treks to club events, Tiffany said, “I’m exhausted. I’m ready for them to be over, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

Medrick said while signing is exciting, “it’s scary at the same time because its means I’m that much closer to going off on my own. It was a tough process. It took forever but I’m really happy with how it came out in the end.”

Medrick plans to be a coach and will study secondary education and kinesiology. She named Coach Crosby, girls basketball assistant coach Tifney Kelly and girls track coach Scott O’Connor as key influences in her life. “Definitely, any coach that I’ve had on this journey,” she said. “They’ve been really supportive, really motivating. … And it’s nice to have that support from the teachers here as well.”

Cornelius’ choice, Iowa Lakes Community College, has five campuses in northwest Iowa, with the main two located in Emmetsburg and Estherville. The Lady Lakers are affiliated with the National Junior College Athletic Association and compete in the Iowa Community College Athletic Conference.

“I feel like it’s going to be another chapter in my life,” said Cornelius, a first-team all-district pick for the Lady Coyotes last season. “It’s going to be fun to see where I go from there.” ILCC’s volleyball coach was a main reason for her choice, Cornelius said. “And all my teammates there are from Texas too, but one. So it’s like being at home with teammates.” She plans to study accounting.

Cornelius said an important role model for her has been her grandfather. “He told me to chase my dreams even if people doubted you. And I did.” She noted that she would give the same advice to girls just starting out in high school sports.

“This is something she always wanted to do,” Crosby said, “even though there were people telling her, ‘Hey, I don’t know if you’re going to be able to [play in college] because you’re so little.’ She was determined to be that libero, that defensive specialist — and that teams were going to take notice of her. This is the result of hard work.

“She never quit on the ball. I don’t care how hard a person could hit, ‘Mike’ had no fear. There were many moments I would see her dive for a ball and roll over. She’s even gone into the bleachers to save a ball.

Parents Paul and Vanessa Cornelius, and brother Harrison Cornelius, joined in the signing celebration. “I’m proud, but very overwhelmed,” Vanessa said. “It’s bittersweet.” While the family will try to get to the Hawkeye State to watch Cornelius in person, Vanessa said OBU also live-streams its volleyball games on the Internet. “I think this next level is going to be even more exciting,” she said.

“I’m very happy but sad at the same time,” Paul said. “She’s my baby girl. … It’s been great. Coach Crosby has been a big influence on her, as well as everybody. She’s done well, between this and club ball. We’ve gotten to travel with her and spend the last few months with her.” Recent Cornelius family club volleyball trips, he said, include Reno, Nevada and Spokane, Washington.