As a senior at Poolesville High School in 2008, Chelsea Glowacki was an integral part of the program’s best volleyball team in school history as the Falcons went undefeated en route to the Class 1A state championship.
Now, four years later at Salisbury University, the 5-foot-9 middle hitter recently concluded her final collegiate season as a key starter during the finest year in Sea Gull history.
On Thursday, Salisbury, which was ranked 14th nationally in last week’s NCAA Division III American Volleyball Coaches Association poll, finished its season with a straight set loss to Elmhurst (Ill.) College in the quarterfinal round of the NCAA volleyball tournament at Hope College in Michigan.
Salisbury, however, had a season that will enter the school’s record book. The Sea Gulls won their first Mid-Atlantic Regional championship and set the program’s high mark for wins (37) in a single season.
Glowacki, meanwhile, became Salisbury’s all-time blocks leader (466) and received honorable mention All-American honors.
Glowacki’s success has impressed her high school coach, Fran DuVall, who saw her play for the first time in college during Salisbury’s victory in the region championship match on Nov. 11.
“Wow,” DuVall said with a laugh during a phone interview last week. “I really didn’t know what to expect, but Chelsea is impressive and consistent. She’s so stinking fast playing antenna to antenna.
“She was always a good blocker, but she has so much more range now. She can effectively hit and she’s playing all the way around. They are letting her serve now, too. I never let her serve in high school. It is just so cool to see her and all the other local kids have success.”
Glowacki’s college coach, Margie Knight, agrees.
“When she came in, she was pretty good at blocking, but was an average hitter at best,” Knight said. “Now, she’s so dynamic, so quick and so impressive … especially at 5-foot-9.”
Several other student-athletes that graduated from high schools in The Gazette’s coverage area (Montgomery, Frederick, Prince George’s counties) also contributed to Salisbury’s success this fall. Sophomore Mattie Smith (Middletown), Junior Tam Weems (Bishop McNamara, 2009 Prince George’s Gazette Player of the Year), senior Kristin Jehle (Walt Whitman) and sophomore Kirby Buttry (Gaithersburg) all saw playing time off the bench.
“It has just been an amazing experience,” Smith said during a phone interview last week prior to the quarterfinal match. She played in just 19 matches (36 sets) this fall, but was efficient with a .256 hitting percentage and a 1.67 kill per set average. “I’ve been so grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this with all the seniors. … Hopefully we can keep it going.”
Added Glowacki: “It is nice to have [Buttry and Jehle] on our side. When I was in high school they were some of the top hitters. As we continue to grow as a program, I hope more girls [from the area] come to Salisbury.”
Weems, who grew up in Upper Marlboro, said she hopes her positive and successful experience will encourage more girls from Prince George’s County to pursue playing volleyball in college.
“It is just nice to see someone do something out of the ordinary,” said Weems, who is the tallest player listed on Salisbury’s roster at 6-foot-1. She received scholarship offers from George Mason and Albany in high school “Most people look at me and see basketball, but I really had an amazing high school [volleyball] career. ... Hopefully I can help.”
Salisbury is expected to graduate several key seniors in the spring — including Glowacki — but the team believes it can continue its success.
“We had so many alums from the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s, early 2000s and the 2010s in the audience,” Smith said. “Everyone is representing and people are really rooting for us. We’ve worked so hard. … We are like a pack of sea gulls at the beach when someone opens a pack of Cheetos. All over the place”