NORTH BRANCH — Thursday was just a normal day for North Branch senior Olivia Fike.
Except for a couple of small details — like signing to play volleyball in college on a full-ride scholarship and winning a regional championship.
Flanked by family, teammates and friends, Fike signed a National Letter of Intent to play volleyball for Wayne St. University during a ceremony at 10:20 a.m. in the North Branch High School media room. And about 10 hours later celebrated with the same people after helping the Broncos to a district championship — her fourth in four years.
“I don’t get to coach players like that very often,” said North Branch coach Jim Fish shortly after Fike signed. “I’ve had a lot of good players, but she is special — the athleticism and skill level is off the charts. She could have gone to a number of Division 1 schools, but she chose to stay close to home.”
North Branch has one of the best volleyball programs in Michigan, and Fike is the latest in a long line of standouts that have signed to play at the next level.
“How awesome is it to play for a team like this?” Fike said. “That if you don’t make to states it’s considered a bad year. There’s a lot of pressure to be successful here and I just love it.”
During Fike’s four years with the program, the Broncos have won four regional championships, a Class B state title in her sophomore year and placed second in Class B last year.
“I had her as a freshman, and she wasn’t very good, but we put her up there,” Fish said. “I knew what we had, but it took me a while to just sort of understand Olivia. She’s not the typical athlete that I’ve had, she cares deeply, but she doesn’t show her emotions.
“Good coaches are able to find a way to connect with their players, and we’ve connected very well.”
Fike, who stands 6-feet, 1-inch tall, plays middle and outside hitter for the Broncos. Her ability to leap high above the night and smash the volleyball towards the ground has caused fits for defenders. Fish expects her to be in the starting lineup as soon as she steps onto Wayne St.’s campus.
“They only get eight scholarships in Division 2, usually they divide up their scholarships,” Fish said. “So that tell’s you what kind of player they’re getting, it’s not often they put a full scholarship into one player.”
Wayne St., which is located in Detroit, is currently 19-9 overall and 10-6 in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
“I love the environment there, I like the city and the program is really close-nit,” Fike said. “I got into a really bad car accident last year, and one of the schools I was looking at was seven hours away, so that made me think ‘no, I want to stay close to home.'”
Fike’s career numbers are staggering — 1,442 kills (512 this year), 395 total blocks and a record of 233-35.
And those figures are still growing, Fike and her teammates hope they will have three more matches this year — wins in the state quarterfinals, semifinals and finals.
“It mean’s everything to go out your senior year with a big accomplishment,” Fike said. “And it makes them want to work as hard, the players coming up next year, they’ll want to continue (the North Branch legacy).”
Fike was a first-team all-state selection a year ago, and was one of the final mentions, along with teammate Madee Miner, for Michigan Miss Volleyball this year. Miner is one of the 10 finalists.