Douglas High senior signs volleyball letter with UConn
At first glance, 5-foot-10 Isabelle Peterson might not appear to be a prime candidate to play middle blocker for an NCAA Division I college volleyball program.
Don’t let her in on the secret, though.
A good combination of athleticism, competitiveness and intelligence helped boost the Douglas High School senior to a dream come true on Thursday when she signed with the University of Connecticut.
“It’s a huge blessing,” Peterson said after the signing ceremony was held before a gathering of family, friends, teammates and coaches in the high school commons. “I had always wanted to play D1 volleyball; I wasn’t really sure if it was going to happen because I had started the recruiting process so late.
“It’s a crazy good school, academically and with all their sports and stuff. I mean, it’s ranked top 25 in the nation for academics and then their women’s basketball team is off the charts. And hopefully we can do that with the volleyball team, too,” she added with a big smile.
Peterson leaves behind a lengthy list of achievements from three varsity seasons at Douglas. The Tigers compiled a 60-36 overall record during that time, highlighted by a region tournament championship in 2014 and runner-up finish in 2016, and she served as team captain the last two seasons.
She earned first-team all-league recognition the last two seasons and was selected to the all-state second-team last fall.
“I can’t say enough how excited we are that she is getting to go play at the top level of volleyball at a school that is really going to challenge her and help her become an even better player than she is,” Douglas coach Suzi Townsell said. “She’s a really good motivator and a great leader the last two years as our captain. She’s just a great role model.”
Peterson led Douglas in kills with 300 (3.4 per set average) and blocks (63) last fall. She finished with 693 career kills, including some big performances against arch rival Carson. Among those, Peterson had 13 kills as a sophomore to help the Tigers defeat rival Carson in the region tournament championship. And as a senior, she had 22 kills as the Tigers ended their regular season with a 3-1 win at home against the Senators.
“I always loved playing Carson just because they’re our rivals and I have some friends on that team so it’s always fun when we beat them,” she said. “Senior Night was by far the best I’ve ever played against them — that was the first time I ever gotten over 20 kills — and it was a really good way to end the regular season of high school.”
Perhaps it was fitting that the first person to greet Peterson at the end of the signing ceremony was her good friend and teammate, Talyn Jackson.
“Isabelle is going to be a hard one to replace, just because she’s an amazing captain, an amazing friend, and the best person I’ve ever played with,” said Jackson, who had 44 assists in Senior Night win over Carson. “I honestly believe that if she works as hard as she can at UConn, she will be an All-American by the end of her fourth year.”
Now, Peterson is ready to head into a new adventure. UConn coach Kris Grunwald shared that enthusiasm Thursday after he received a copy of the signed letter.
“We are very excited to add Izzy to the Husky family,” Grunwald told the UConnHuskies.com website. “She is a tireless worker who has an ingrained work ethic that will help continue to build the culture in our program.
“She is a versatile athlete with the ability to compete as a middle blocker as well as a pin player.”
Townsell views that versatility as just one of many assets Peterson will bring to UConn.
“Isabelle is the ultimate competitor; that’s probably one of her strongest suits,” Townsell said. “She’s got the warmest heart, but when it comes to playing and competing, there’s no stopping her.”
And she can play anywhere on the court, the Douglas coach continued.
“As an outside (hitter), she’s a great passer and a great defender,” Townsell said. “You can play her anywhere. When Raychel Allen was hurt (last season), we would keep Isabelle in and play the libero position. You want to keep her on the floor if you can.”
Anything Peterson lacks in height is offset by her considerable jumping ability. From a standing start, she can come within a couple of inches of touching a 10-foot-high basketball rim, according to her father, Clay Peterson, an athlete at Douglas in the 1970s and ‘80s. (Her older brothers Jake, Brock and Conner were also standout athletes at Douglas.)
Furthermore, her volleyball skills have been enhanced by another sport she trained at from an early age
“She’s been boxing since she was a little kid,” said Clay Peterson, who added that her hand-eye coordination, hand speed and focus from boxing translated to being able to block in volleyball.
Grunwald spoke of that athletic training as well as her status as an Academic All-American.
“Having a family full of fitness professionals has provided her a true understanding of what it takes on a daily basis to compete at the next level,” Grunwald said.