Three Sweet Home volleyball players sign with LBCC

Scott Swanson

Three Sweet Home volleyball players signed letters of intent last week to play next season for Linn-Benton Community College.

Savannah Hutchins, Shelbey Nichol and Graci Zanona bring the total number of Huskies to five who have signed to play volleyball at the college level, from the team that finished second in the state last year. Teja Abbott has signed to play beach volleyball for Bushnell University and Bailey Hartsook has signed to play for Western Oregon.

“Graci, Shelbey and Savannah are fierce competitors and fun teammates,” Coach Mary Hutchins said of the three most recent signees. “I am happy they found a place to call home and continue their volleyball dreams.”

The three follow in the footsteps of former teammate Ally Tow, who was a top player at LBCC for the last two years before signing with Corban.

LBCC finished last season with a 28-12 overall record with a 2-1 loss to South Region foe Rogue 2-1 in the elimination bracket at the NWAC Volleyball Championship Tournament.

Tow led the Roadrunners with 11 kills and 12 digs in the match.

A signing ceremony was held for them outdoors at Husky Field Friday night, Dec. 4, due to COVID restrictions on indoor activities.

Savannah Hutchins said she selected Linn-Benton because “I love the campus and I have watched their volleyball program for years and the girls played at a very competitive level.”

Zanona said that she wanted to stay close to home while attending college, but she wanted to play at the “next level,” and because Tow had played for the Roadrunners, she has watched a lot of games there.

“I just saw how competitive the program was and that’s when I knew that L-B was going to be a good place for me,” she said, noting that the school offers diagnostic imaging, which she is interested in since she wants to pursue a career as an X-ray technician.

Nichol also said LBCC offers programs she needs to pursue a nursing career.

She said she wants to stay “close to home” and until last year she hadn’t really decided what she wanted to do for her future, which also includes owning a ranch and raising cattle.

Zanona said she invited LBCC Coach Jayme Frazier to watch her play in a club league in Salem.

“Unfortunately, during the first game we were about five points in and I dove into one of my teammates to dig a ball, we collided pretty bad and I ended up dislocating my elbow,” Zanona said. “At that point in time I felt as though I had just ruined my chances of playing college volleyball; no coach is going to want me now. Luckily, she had watched me play at a couple of club tournaments before COVID hit.”

She said Frazier remained interested and emailed her, offering a tour of the school.

“I didn’t reach out to any other schools because I was pretty set on playing at L-B,” she said.

Hutchins said she got interested in the Roadrunners after participating in a camp at the school, where she met Frazier.

“I did get interest from other schools but I only pursued LBCC and decided to take the chance and not reach out to any other college,” she said. “My older sister attended LBCC and had a great experience there with the class size and instructors. When I finally got to visit LBCC,  I got to tour the campus and see where specific classes took place. I really enjoyed seeing the facilities, including the weight room. It is really nice.”

She said she decided early on that she wanted to play college volleyball “because I am very competitive and I love to play.”

“I love being able to play with a group of girls that are my close friends and competitive and we win on the court together. I have had great coaches and have learned a lot from all of them.”

Hutchins is considering a career in nursing or physical therapy, she said.

“I want to help people.”

Nichol, who also competes in track and field, said she has always wanted to play volleyball in college.

“My main focus was to get help for school through a sports scholarship, or just scholarships through our school,” she said.

“My other sports have benefited me to get better. I love all the sports I’ve played and have had amazing coaches in all of them. They’ve all pushed me to be the best player I could be.”

Zanona, who’s played club volleyball in Sweet Home since fifth grade, said she loves how “fast-paced” the game is.

“I am such a competitive person,” she said. “My goal growing up was to play in college no matter what sport it was. I think starting club at such an early age helped me to be where I am today. My competitive side always pushed me to work harder and expect more of myself.”

Mary Hutchins noted that all three “have always been willing to help the younger players in clinics and clubs.”

“I’m excited and proud of them as they continue to pursue their volleyball and academic goals,” she said.

Savannah Hutchins expressed thanks to the community for supporting the Huskies over the past four years.

“They always showed up and supported us and our team, win or lose.”