Niwot volleyball takes it to the next level
November 21, 2018
Just days after their exhilarating run in this year’s Class 4A state tournament, four key members of Niwot’s historic 2018 volleyball squad signed early letters of intent to continue their careers in the collegiate ranks.
“It's such a small population that gets to play at the next level,” Niwot athletic director Chase McBride said while introducing signers Emma Falk, Zoe Gonzales, Audrey Richard and Madison Schoeder. “We are all proud of you and it's been such a fun month that you’ve given us, especially this past weekend.”
Falk and Gonzales are headed to Division I schools in the south, while Richard and Schoeder will be staying a little closer to home. But all four will be leaving big shoes for Niwot head volleyball coach Daisha Agho to fill next year.
Emma Falk – College of Charleston
If there’s been a better performance by a Niwot volleyball player than by Emma Falk in this year’s state semifinals against Longmont, then that must have been a sight to see. Steeled by the loss of teammate Audrey Richard to injury the night before, the senior middle blocker played the best game of her career, ending the night with a personal best 27 kills.
Not that longtime fans of Niwot volleyball were surprised. The 6-foot-4 Falk has been one of the Cougars’ main offensive weapons over the past three seasons, and her senior year was her most effective yet. Voted 2018 Northern League Player of the Year, she had a team-leading 355 kills on the season, and the league’s second-highest hitting percentage (.401). She also had the team’s second-best totals in aces (45), blocks (91), digs (242), and service receptions (66).
Falk is headed to the College of Charleston in South Carolina next year, a school that wasn’t initially on her radar.
“It was kind of towards the end of the process that they popped up for me,” she said about the Division I Colonial Athletic Association team, where she plans to pursue a degree in education. “All the pieces kind of fit together at the end. And I liked it the most. They actually have a beach volleyball team that I'll play on too.”
Falk is excited to get into a new setting, and Charleston’s “cool southern charm” is certainly an antidote to the Colorado plains.
Falk initially pursued an opportunity with Sacramento State, the program her older sister Sarah committed to in 2016. However, the younger Falk ultimately had other ideas.
"I didn't actually work with her that much,” Emma said about her sister’s role in her recruiting process. “I would love to play with my sister, but finding my own path was a big part of it too.”
Zoe Gonzales – Wake Forest
Middle blocker Zoe Gonzales isn’t daunted by the distance between her current home in Niwot and her future home in Winston-Salem, N.C.
“I think it will be fun to get a new change and see something different,” the Colorado native said. “It would be nice to stay close to home, but I think it will be good for me to get out of my comfort zone for a little bit.”
Gonzales seemed to step out of her comfort zone frequently during her senior season. The fourth-year varsity player took a much more active role on defense this year, with 89 digs, more than double the combined total for her first three years. She also joined the serving rotation for the first time, and ended the year with 21 aces.
To be sure, Gonzales was also a force for Niwot back in her comfort zone. The senior had career-bests in kills (289), hitting percentage (.319), and total blocks (95), and helped lead the Cougars to their best season in nearly 30 years.
Before committing to Wake Forest, Gonzales also pursued an opportunity at Villanova, but she was ultimately won over by Winston-Salem’s tree-laden ambiance.
“If you've seen pictures of North Carolina then you know it looks a lot like Colorado,” she said. “The campus is especially beautiful. I have no words to describe it - it's amazing.”
Audrey Richard – Colorado School of Mines
Outside hitter Audrey Richard also signed with a school that wasn’t initially on her radar, but she has little doubt that she’ll be happy pursuing her dreams of designing adaptive sports prosthetics at the state’s premier engineering school.
“I originally thought I wanted to major in biology,” she said. “But the biomedical minor is really, really good at Mines. I've always known how good an engineering school it is but I didn't know how good a school it is in general.”
The academically-minded Richard will be joining the Orediggers as a libero, a role she also fills on her club team. However, she just wrapped up a very successful senior season as an outside hitter for the Cougars, and played a key role in the team’s state finals run. She ended the year with 236 kills, and led the team in aces (54) and digs (279).
Unlike her south-bound teammates, Richard is happy to be staying close to the comforts of home, and her sister in particular. She’ll also be seeing another familiar face on a regular basis.
“When I was first considering Mines, Madison [Schoeder] was a big part of my decision,” she said, “because it's nice to have one of your best friends there with you. We're going to have a lot of fun in the next four years.”
Madison Schoeder – Colorado School of Mines
Senior setter Madison Schoeder has had her sights set on the Colorado School of Mines volleyball program since her sophomore year. She’s just not sure what else she’s going to do once she gets there.
“I have no idea,” she responded about her future major. “But I really like how it's close to home, and I love Golden as a city. When I met the team I really loved everybody and the coaches.”
As “quarterback of the volleyball team,” Schoeder was another key piece of the puzzle for the Cougars in their run to the state title match. She had the Northern League’s second highest assist total, with 791, nearly nine per set. She also had 213 total digs and 79 kills.
Though the mathophile isn’t quite sure where her studies will take her at the venerable engineering school, Schoeder is excited to participate in the institution’s many vaunted customs, including painting a rock for the M on Lookout Mountain.
“They always talk about the tradition of going rafting down the river that goes through Golden, and that sounds really exciting,” she said. “Having the small town community feel is going to be different than how it feels living up here in a bigger city, so I’m looking forward to that.”