After playing on the same volleyball team since the third grade, 2011 Lakota West graduates Liz McMahon and Lexi Dannemiller will see a familiar face on the opposite side of net Wednesday when No. 1 Illinois (17-0 overall, 6-0 in the Big Ten Conference) hosts No. 20 Michigan (14-4 overall, 2-4 in the Big Ten) at 8 p.m.
“It will be really fun to see her across the net and talk to her a little bit if we have any time,” said Dannemiller, who is a freshman at the University of Michigan. “I have been looking forward to it. I have played with a lot of players in the Big Ten, but this will be the first time that I will actually be able to play against someone who I grew up with.”
It was back home in West Chester, where Lexi’s mother, Maria, showed a 5-foot-4 fourth grader named Elizabeth McMahon how the game of volleyball could be fun.
“It was hard, because of my height. I hadn’t really grown into my body yet. She just made it fun and I think that was really important because I might have gone on a different path if I didn’t enjoy it,” McMahon said of Lexi’s mom, who coached Lexi and Liz from the third to the sixth grade.
>>>HIGH SCHOOL PHOTOS OF LEXI AND LIZ<<<
Now at the University of Illinois, the 6-foot-6 McMahon said that she is “enjoying every second” of being a part of the nation’s top-ranked Division I program.
McMahon’s new teammates are also enjoying her company, as the freshman has excelled in the last two matches against No. 24 Ohio State and No. 9 Penn State. In those wins, she totaled 25 kills and seven block assists.
“For her size, she is one of the more mobile players I have seen,” Illinois head coach Kevin Hambly said. “Her size allows her to go over players, but I think as she develops more strength and really learns how to approach the net and jump – she is going to be untouchable at times. With those kinds of physical tools, who knows what her ceiling is.”
Meanwhile, when Dannemiller enrolled at Michigan, she had to battle junior Catherine Yager for the opportunity to start at setter after four-time All-American and Michigan’s all-time assists leader Lexi Zimmerman graduated.
“I don’t think there is a harder position in the game to transition to from the high school and club level to college than setter,” Michigan head coach Mark Rosen said. “There are so many decisions that need to be made, the pace is so much faster and physicality of game is so much bigger.”
After earning the starting job, Dannemiller has produced and is currently second in the Big Ten in assists and has also been named the Big Ten Freshman of the Week three times.
“It is a true testament of the great job that she has done as a young player to come in and move into a starting role, which has allowed us to be successful,” Rosen said.
With the match being televised on the Big Ten Network, many people back in West Chester will also be able to follow the former Lakota West stars.
“It being on the Big Ten Network, I think it will be fun for a lot of my extended family and friends. Even the coaches, who have coached the two of us in the past, are going to be able to watch it,” McMahon said. “It should be an awesome match to see.”
One of those coaches that will be watching will be their former high school coach.
“This is going to be a great Big Ten match,” Lakota West head coach Tracey Kornau said.
“Not only did they play their entire Plains (junior high) career together, but they were four-year varsity starters at West and played on the same club team all those years. This is the first time in their volleyball careers they are not on the same side of the net. It is exciting for me is to see both of them play at such an elite level for such great teams.”
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