Morris Area senior Riley Decker will play volleyball at one of the most successful NCAA Division II programs in the country. Decker signed her National Letter of Intent Wednesday, Nov. 14 and has committed to play volleyball at Concordia St. Paul.
Concordia St. Paul has won nine NCAA Division II titles in the last 12 years, second most in NCAA volleyball across all divisions and just one title shy of the NCAA record. The Golden Bears volleyball program has appeared in 16 straight NCAA tournaments, including 2018 where it was eliminated by Washburn in a five-set match Saturday, Nov. 17, in Kearney, Nebraska.
Decker is a four-year letter winner as libero and defensive specialist for the varsity Tiger volleyball program. She ended her prep career with 2,006 digs, but stats aren't the only reason she'll see success at the next level, MACA head coach Caleb Greene said.
"She was one of the loudest as a freshman and continued to be the loudest as a senior. Having a constant communicator on a volleyball court is extremely important for the game. Her confidence was contagious and she never felt we couldn't win a game. She wanted every ball hit at her, even after an error, she wanted the next ball. Her mental toughness is what will keep her competitive at CSP," Greene said. "She will take on challenges thrown her way and will raise her play to the higher level of competition. I am excited for her to play at the next level."
Her high school coach isn't the only one who is excited. CSP head coach Brady Starkey is looking forward to working with her.
"Riley is a dynamic libero with a lot of defensive range and she really is relentless in her pursuit to keep the ball off the floor," Starkey said. "She has a very strong work ethic and we are hoping that she can help raise the level of defensive effort in our gym. She is very mature and fit in really well with our players on her visit and I think she will make a great teammate here at Concordia. We are very excited to get her in our gym and to start working with her."
She verbally committed to Concordia St. Paul early this summer.
"When I met with coach Starkey and his staff, I knew CSP was where I wanted to be. I loved the small size of the campus and how close it is to home," Decker said, who received both an athletic and academic scholarship to play for the Golden Bears. "I plan to bring my hard work and dedication to the sport I love, and fill whatever role my coaches need me to fill."
CSP wasn't the only option for Decker as she received offers from Winona State, University of Minnesota Crookston, Bemidji State, Mankato State and Mayville State.
"I was also recruited by all levels in the region," Decker said.
Decker credits the people around her for her recruitment.
"My high school and club coaches were a huge part of my recruitment," Decker said. "I am so thankful for the time they have put into me and my teammates throughout the years. I am also so thankful for the teammates I have gotten to play with over the years... without their talents, hard work, and support, I would not have this opportunity."
This recruitment to a powerhouse program like CSP is much bigger than Decker, Greene said.
"Riley's ability to pass and read the ball has been excellent to have the last four years starting on varsity," Greene said. "Her skill sets have been observed by many young female athletes in the Morris area. I know Riley's play on the court will impact our youth to focus on their passing skills for the future."
"Preparing for a sport throughout the season is not enough," Decker said of her dedication to volleyball. "Participating in summer workouts, club sports, and getting in extra reps has helped me get where I am today."