MACOMB TOWNSHIP — Sheila Snyder admits she had no idea her daughter, Carli Snyder, would blossom into such a great athlete, especially at volleyball.
“If you would have told me 10 years ago that my kids would be volleyball players, I would have thought you were insane,” said Sheila Snyder, who coaches tennis at Wayne State University.
Sheila Snyder and her husband, Bill, who for several years coached basketball at Macomb Dakota, have been able to watch on a daily basis as their daughter has turned into one of the top prep volleyball players in the country.
That hard work culminated with Carli Snyder being named Miss Volleyball by the Michigan Interscholastic Volleyball Coaches Association during a press conference held Nov. 18 at Dakota. Carli Snyder, an outside hitter, is the 12th player to win the award, according to Miss Volleyball chair Jenny Thundberg.
Carli Snyder, Thundberg said, ran away with the voting. The Dakota senior notched 326 points. Runner-up Sierra Hubbard-Neil, of Battle Creek St. Philip, tallied 126 points. The third-place finisher, Birmingham Marian’s Jessie Kopmeyer, received 87 points.
“I don’t know what to say. I’m shaking,” Carli Snyder said during the press conference, which was attended by her parents, coaches, school officials and teammates. “I got called into the office, and I thought I was in trouble for my attendance. I’ve never been called into the office before. I was so scared.
“It’s a great individual award to get. I think it reflects so much on the great coaches, teammates and support I’ve had. I couldn’t have done it without having the best teammates for four years, and I’d never want to play for anybody other than (Dakota coach Tracie Ferguson).”
Those teammates, Carli Snyder and Ferguson got to the top of the mountain in 2012, as the Cougars captured a Michigan High School Athletic Association Class A state title — the first in the history of the program.
The squad wasn’t able to repeat, falling 3-2 to Romeo in a 2013 MHSAA Class A regional semifinal Nov. 12, but the team, which this season featured eight seniors, made its mark, including winning the last three Macomb Area Conference Red Division titles. Carli Snyder, who battled an ankle injury this season but helped Dakota start 30-0, has been named MAC Red MVP four times.
“This doesn’t happen very often. Only one player in the state gets this honor each year, and we’re happy it’s one of our own,” said Ferguson, in her sixth year with the Dakota program. “It’s been an honor to coach Carli. She’s more than deserving of this award, and I’m so glad the state of Michigan felt the same way we all do.”
Ferguson said Carli Snyder, who stands 6 feet, 1 inch tall, rewrote the school record book. The senior, who will play at the University of Florida in 2014, recorded 2,703 kills, 1,851 digs and 491 aces in her four years as a varsity player.
The honor is the latest of many for Carli Snyder, who was also named the 2012 Gatorade Player of the Year. She has earned first-team All-State honors, along with being named a 2013 Under Armour first-team All-American, which will allow her to play in an All-Star match in December in Seattle. She also played on the USA Junior Olympic Team, where she was named team MVP.
“Never in a million years did any of this cross my mind. I’m so overwhelmed,” Carli Snyder said. “I’m just very humbled to be with all of these people right now. I know I wouldn’t be where I am without them.”
Ferguson said Carli Snyder regularly exhibits that humble personality. The Dakota coach said the standout has had a lot of positive qualities instilled in her by her parents.
“She’s one of a kind. … I’ve been coaching almost 20 years, and you don’t come across many players like (Carli),” Ferguson said. “There’s not many of that caliber that I’ve seen in the state of Michigan. It’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime things you get to experience as a coach.”
Sheila Snyder, whose other daughter, Kelsey, also played volleyball at Dakota, said her children started playing volleyball just for fun. She admits, though, that she could tell at a young age that Carli had the potential to be a special player.
“She was always skinny and tall, but I could tell. I could always tell at a young age that she might be able to put it all together,” Sheila Snyder said. “Once she got to be about 14, she started to put it all together. It’s not something she’s done alone. She’s had a great supporting cast.”
Carli Snyder, who will study communications and pursue a career in broadcasting, said she’s excited to start the next chapter of her life. She said her scholarship to the University of Florida came after she casually called Gators coaches after receiving a letter from the school.
Carli Snyder said she fell in love with the school after talking to Florida coaches.
“One day, I just called the coaches thinking, ‘I’ll never go this far away,’ but when I called them, I fell in love with how passionate everyone was about the school, and when I got there, I could understand why. It’s beautiful. They have so many amenities for the athletes.”
Sheila Snyder said she and her husband will do their best to get to as many of Carli’s matches as they can. She also said she’ll continue to attend Dakota matches and support the program that propelled both of her daughters’ volleyball careers.
Ferguson said her time coaching Carli Snyder has flown by. She said she remembers Carli Snyder as a little, tiny freshman who she initially didn’t think could hit the ball very hard. Ferguson said Snyder has gotten stronger physically and that her volleyball IQ has gotten higher, as well.
“I’ve enjoyed every minute of seeing her grow and get better every year, and she can still get better,” Ferguson said. “She just raises that bar. I can’t believe she’s done, but she makes the game look easy.”