FREDERICKSBURG, Va. (EYT/D9) — Brenna Campbell was unhappy and at a crossroads.
The Clarion Area High School graduate had come to McDaniel College in Maryland with big goals in the classroom and on the volleyball court.
It didn’t take her long to realize neither was being satisfied.
(Photo courtesy of the University of Mary Washington)
She had to make a difficult decision — one that many in her place would be hesitant to make.
Leave for another school.
Fast forward a year later and Campbell is most certainly happy these days.
She’s a sophomore setter on the University of Mary Washington volleyball team that just won the Coast to Coast Athletic Conference championship and earned a berth into the NCAA Division III Tournament.
Campbell’s choice to leave McDaniel after just one semester has paid off.
“I’m a lot happier,” Campbell said. “The opportunity to play in the NCAA Tournament is something I’ve always wanted to do, but never actually thought I would be able to do. Everything here is just so much nicer. The facilities are nicer. The resources are nicer. Even academics, I’m being pushed so much more. Every aspect I’m just so much happier.”
It’s showing on the court.
Campbell, who was a four-time all-state selection when she was piling up more than 3,000 assists while setting for Clarion, has adapted to a 6-2 offense from the 5-1 she played in high school.
Even with two setters on the floor, Campbell has 500 assists this season for Mary Washington.
“Playing here has been awesome,” Campbell said. “Last season, I was running a 5-1 (at McDaniel). This year, it’s a 6-2 with another setter. To even have 500 assists running a 6-2 is crazy. Last year I had to do a crazy topspin serve. This year my coach is allowing me to use what I’m best at, which is my jump float. It’s just so much better.”
Campbell has also been solid in the back row with 198 digs. At the service line, that float serve has, well, served her well with 29 aces.
Campbell said it didn’t take her long to adapt to playing with another setter on the floor.
“I’ve never done it before — I’ve always run a 5-1,” Campbell said. “But it wasn’t necessarily hard. When you have so many offensive weapons that you can use on the outside, middle and right side, you always have three options. If all of our hitters are on and it’s working, it’s great.”
It’s been working a lot for the Eagles, who are 24-7 heading into the NCAA Tournament.
Mary Washington is hosting the regional, which begins on Thursday.
Three wins over the weekend and the Eagles will play in the quarterfinals at the UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse on the campus of Duquesne University. Two more wins after that and they will be national champions.
“We’re the No. 1 seed in our bracket,” Campbell said. “I think we have a chance to come out of it.”
Just getting to the NCAA Tournament was something of a revelation for Campbell and Mary Washington.
The Eagles won the conference for the first time since 2016.
“Coming in here and being able to contribute and help turn it around and win our first one in a really long time is awesome,” Campbell said.
“I don’t know if really any of us thought we would be in the NCAA Tournament,” she added. “I mean, our rival in our conference, Christopher Newport, which is a really good team, they’re in the conference championship pretty much every year and they’re always in the NCAA Tournament. We beat them three times this year. I think that’s when we were like, ‘Oh, my gosh, we’re really good.’”
That thought was cemented in a 3-1 win over Salisbury to win the C2C title and earn an automatic NCAA bid.
“I think this weekend we think we can do something in the NCAA,” Campbell said. “We could be in Pittsburgh next week.”
Campbell is just happy to be in Fredericksburg after a forgettable fall in Maryland last year.
“Last year we played our last regular season game and we were done and we knew we knew it was going to be over,” Campbell said. “I’m very happy it worked out.”