Prep Volleyball: This Willmar Cardinal is Gopher-bound

Minnesota commit Sydney Schnichels helps Willmar beat Rocori

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Willmar junior Sydney Schnichels looks to bump the ball ahead on a serve-receive during a Central Lakes Conference match against Rocori on Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2021 at Willmar High School. Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

WILLMAR — Hoping to one day don Minnesota’s maroon and gold, Sydney Schnichels made a commitment to her volleyball career.

At 13, she and her family decided to make the trek to the Twin Cities to play on the Minnesota Select Volleyball Club and currently, the Northern Lights JO volleyball team in Burnsville.

It was a lot of travel to hone her craft, but “you get used to it,” the Willmar junior outside hitter said.

Those treks to the Twin Cities helped Schnichels cement her volleyball future in the Twin Cities. On Monday night, the Cardinals standout verbally committed to the University of Minnesota.

“Last night, I called Hugh (McCutcheon, the head coach) after practice and said, ‘I want to be a Gopher,’” said Schnichels prior to Willmar’s three-set victory over Rocori. The scores were 31-29, 25-20, 25-16.


“It’s definitely been a dream that I’ve had forever and I was willing to do anything to play there.”

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Willmar junior outside hitter Sydney Schnichels (2) attacks the ball while a pair of Rocori players go for a block during a Central Lakes Conference match on Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2021 at Willmar High School. Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

Against the Spartans on Tuesday, Schnichels finished with 11 kills, 10 digs and an ace serve. She was also a driving force in the first set that saw the Cardinals go from being down 23-20 to winning the extended set.

Marissa Rosen was the Cardinals’ top attacker with 17 kills, followed by nine from Mackenzie Knofczynski. Lydia Larson collected 37 set assists and Hannah Stark had a team-best 11 digs.

Leah Ruter, Willmar’s first-year head volleyball coach, first had a chance to coach a young Schnichels at the Green Lake volleyball camp in Spicer during Ruter’s senior year at Willmar High School.

“I remember seeing big feet and big hands,” Ruter said. “I remember thinking that she’ll be a big-time player.

“Going from then to being around her now, that’s been fun to see.”


Along with the Gophers, Schnichels said her final three included Florida and Ohio State. She checked out both campuses to make sure she wasn’t missing out.

“I took my other visits, but the Gophers were home,” said Schnichels, who is projected to be a right-side hitter in college. “My family can come watch and that’s a big piece of it for me. Hugh’s an amazing coach and the program is amazing. Their staff is great and I love the campus.”

Schnichels added, “The goal is to win a national championship and to get better. I’m super excited.”

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Willmar senior Marissa Rosen hits the ball down the line by a Rocori blocker during a Central Lakes Conference match on Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2021 at Willmar High School. Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

Central Lakes
Willmar 3, Rocori 0

Rocori (3-3) 29 20 16
Willmar (3-1) 31 25 25
Stats not available

Serving (aces): Sydney Schnichels 1, Lydia Larson 1, Marissa Rosen 1, Hannah Stark 2, Gretchen Volk 3, Mackenzie Knofczynski 3, Lauren Dirkes 2 … Set assists: Larson 37, Knofczynski 1 … Hitting (kills): Schnichels 11, Larson 1, Rosen 17, Volk 3, Knofczynski 9 … Blocking (aces): Rosen 1/2, Knofczynski 1/2 … Digs (5 or more): Schnichels 10, Stark 11, Volk 10, Allie Rosendahl 7

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