Chelsey Albrecht knew she had a shot at snagging a foundational component of her program. The Presentation College volleyball coach just had to woo that player away from basketball.
It wasn’t an easy task. Aberdeen Central graduate Laura Babcock had narrowed her choices down to two: playing basketball for the Saints or retiring from sports altogether and heading off to the University of South Dakota for academics.
But something about the volleyball program kept drawing her back. Maybe, just maybe, Albrecht had a chance.
“I knew she could be somebody that could help give us the foundation I was looking for,” Albrecht said.
Finally, Babock couldn’t ignore the opportunity anymore and inked her commitment to play volleyball for the Saints.
“The more I explored the volleyball program, the more I knew this was where I was supposed to be,” she said.
Albrecht liked a lot of things that Babcock brought to the table, but was particularly drawn to Babcock’s competitive nature, an edge likely borne from being the younger sister to three older — and also highly competitive — brothers.
“She’s a true competitor,” Albrecht said. “She just loves to compete. Someone like that can help evolve your program, and that’s what she’s done.”
But not overnight. Babcock had to learn the ropes, had to adjust to the speed of the college game. Competitive nature or not, Babcock needed to watch and learn under one of the better liberos to pull on a Saints jersey in recent years.
“It helped me a lot,” Babcock said. “(Joely Roe) showed me the ropes. As a freshman coming in there’s a lot to learn, not just as a back row presence but as a leader. Just showing me how to play at a higher level, which was something I wasn’t used to, was huge.”
Those dividends are starting to show during Babcock’s senior season. She recently topped the 1,600 career dig mark, becoming just the second Saints player ever to do so. She currently sits second on Presentation’s all-time digs chart and, considering Babcock has also decided to take her Covid year and return for a fifth season next year, will have a chance to etch her name in the top spot on that list.
It’s a spot Babcock never dreamed she’d find herself in.
“It’s crazy,” she said. “In high school, I never even got 1,000 digs. I played varsity for three years and never got there. So to come here and do that, it’s really an honor.”
It’s particularly impressive considering opposing teams will consistently try to avoid Babcock in serve/serve-receive situations.
“Teams understand she’s a very good defensive player,” Albrecht said. “When they’re not serving at her or staying away from her, it upsets her a little bit. But she still finds ways to contribute and help the team. She’s really grown as a leader over the last four years.”
And that, Albrecht said, is as important as any skill development. As talented as Babcock is, it’s her presence that steers the ship.
“She’s consistent,” Albrecht said. “She’s consistently going to be ready to compete in every match and every opportunity that we have. There’s no question. She’s always going to be ready to go.”
Not only that, Albrecht added, but there’s no overly-inflated ego that follows Babcock around.
“She’s a kid who’s putting in a ton of time in the weight room and on the court working to better her game,” Albrecht said. “She’s not walking out there just expecting to be the best. She’s willing to put in the time and do all the little things.”
With just two regular season matches remaining on the schedule, there is one thing left on Babcock’s to-do list — win a playoff match.
“I haven’t won at our conference tournament, yet,” she said. “I’d easily trade 1,000 digs for a win.”
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