With a college volleyball scholarship already in her possession, Cortney VanLiew could have taken it easy this summer.
But the Columbus East three-sport standout wasn’t having any of that. She had an action-packed summer, highlighted by a trip to Europe, where she helped a group of American volleyball players win the European Global Challenge.
VanLiew’s future Florida Gulf Coast University roommate wanted to play overseas this summer and found a program called Bring It Promotions. The organization needed another outside hitter for one of its teams, so it sent an email to FGCU coach Matt Botsford, and he forwarded the information to VanLiew and her family.
Bring It Promotions sponsored two teams, and VanLiew’s squad featured nine girls. The team went 9-0 in exhibition games then went 6-0 with wins against another American team and teams from Croatia, China, England, Canada and Slovenia in the European Global Challenge.
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“It was an amazing experience,” VanLiew said. “To not speak the same language as the teams we played but to still understand each other because of volleyball, that was very nice.”
The games were played in Hungary, Slovenia and Croatia. The team also toured Italy but did not play there.
VanLiew said temperatures reached triple digits, and the gyms where they played had no air conditioning, no windows and barely any doors to open to get air circulated.
“On top of all that, you’re sweating, and then it’s a different ball than what we use in America,” VanLiew said. “So you had to take all those factors into play. But knowing the girls for five days, and then going and winning a tournament with them, I thought we played extremely well.”
Prior to the Europe trip, VanLiew and East teammate Bailey Western played for Circle City in the AAU nationals June 18 to 26 in Orlando, Florida. Before and after that trip, VanLiew, a state swimming qualifier as a sophomore, swam with her Olympians teammates at their summer conditioning sessions.
VanLiew left for Europe on July 4 and flew back into Atlanta on July 16. From there, she headed straight to New Orleans for a three-day service mission through her church. After that, she returned home for a day, then headed to a three-day volleyball camp at FGCU, where she will play volleyball and beach volleyball next season.
The week after she returned home, volleyball practice — and school — began.
“I think she’s more seasoned,” East coach Stacie Pagnard said. “She has more experience, and I think that experience playing with so many different people has helped her leadership. She’s already a great leader, but just being able to have so many different experiences this summer has helped her grow immensely in her leadership skills.”
The versatile 5-foot-11 outside hitter plays all over the court. Last year, she led the Olympians with 398 kills, 402 digs and 44 aces in earning The Republic Volleyball Player of the Year honors.
VanLiew is entering her fourth year as a starter.
“She’s developed into one of the better defensive players that I’ve coached,” Pagnard said. “I think her defensive game has been what I’m most impressed with seeing her from the end of club season to the end of summer.”
East went 28-9 and won Hoosier Hills Conference and sectional titles last season. With five returning three- or four-year varsity players, the Olympians have set a goal to make it to the Class 4A state finals this fall.
In the meantime, VanLiew wants to keep improving.
“I definitely learned a lot of different techniques and different coaching styles and then applied that to my game,” VanLiew said. “I’m excited to train with coach P some more to get back to the basics of what she taught me last year.”
Name: Cortney VanLiew
School: Columbus East
College choice: Florida Gulf Coast
Sports: Volleyball, swimming, track and field
Favorite sport: Volleyball
Other activities: National Honor Society, on committee for Champions Together for Unified Track and Field, youth group at Zion Lutheran Church in Seymour