For the past two seasons 5-foot-8 senior outside hitter Ella Domian has been a starter for Jackson’s volleyball team, the Indians have recorded back-to-back 30-win seasons and extended their district championship and conference tournament winning streak to four.
The one accolade missing from Jackson and Domian’s achievements in that span is a trip to the state final four, which is something that the Indians have never reached.
However, Ella and the Indians are hoping to end that drought of not reaching state this upcoming fall. Including Domian, not one but four player’s in this year’s senior class have already committed to play college volleyball.
“I think we’re to a point where everybody is at their fittest for now and fired up to play in college, but we want to get that state championship,” Ella said. “Everybody has the drive and is ready — we will do anything for it. I think it’s going to be a really special season because we just keep getting closer and closer. I think we can do it.”
After graduation, Domian will be taking her talents to Division-II Maryville up in St. Louis. Two fellow seniors hitter Nadia Wasilewski and libero Holland Guilliams have committed to D-I schools (Wichita State and Southeast Missouri State, respectively), while defensive specialist Grace Newell will be headed to John A. Logan Community College.
“We all made the team when we were 12, so we’ve just been building our chemistry,” Domian said. “We were all friends before that — having a connection and chemistry on the court is one of the most important parts. It’s not just if you’re good because you can’t do it alone — everyone has to have good chemistry to work.
“I’m so proud of [my classmates] — I’ve wanted everybody to reach what they wanted to reach. Whether that’s D-I, D-II, JUCO or whatever you wanted to play, you made it.”
Ella said that it’s been her dream to play college volleyball ever since she first started playing back in the third grade. After Maryville reached out to her, Domian visited the school and spoke with coaches over the phone for a while.
Perhaps the main reason why Ella decided to play at Maryville was because she said the coaches saw her potential while being very welcoming. The staff also assured Domian that she would have teammates at Maryville who would work just as hard as she does.
“They have a good sense of family, are hard workers and are trying to build their program,” she said. “The fact that they see me fitting into that somewhere made me definitely want to be a part of their family.”
Domian announced her commitment to Maryville back in May after a junior campaign where she became a two-time Class 5 District 1 All-District selection and earned SEMO All-Conference honors for the first time. Ella did so by finishing first for Jackson in kill percentage with at least 200 attempts at .405, which ranked in the top 10 of Missouri.
Additionally, Domian was second in total kills with 271 behind junior outside hitter Katy St. John’s Jackson regular-season record 401 kills. Ella also came up third in blocks with 55 behind Wasilewski’s team-high mark of 83 and senior middle hitter Christa Vandeven’s 58 total blocks.
Wasilewski was the only other Indian last fall outside of St. John and Domian to have 200 kills or more, while Jackson will also return a hitter like fellow all-district and all-conference pick senior Sydnie Floyd, who produced 189 kills and 21 blocks.
“It’s good to have the lineup we have — we’ve all trained together and are our own best critics,” Ella said. “We definitely have the type of team where we’ve always pushed each other. No matter if someone needs more time in the gym, everybody’s going — all or nothing.
“Having one team that’s been working together and everybody wants it just as much as the next person, it makes everybody amazing. Those girls are the best players and people I know.”
The season prior to that in Domian’s first full season of varsity action as a sophomore, she finished in the top five of each category with 187 kills (fourth), a .340 kill percentage (fourth) and 32 blocks (fifth). Ella was rightfully named to the all-district team after the season.
“I like playing team sports — I like having people there for me who are going to be positive and want to just play and work together,” Domian explained.
The great thing about Ella’s Jackson teammates is that they also have a fiery competitiveness that has only been fueled by the Indians falling one win shy of reaching state for their entire high school careers so far. In the Class 5 Quarterfinals the past two years, Jackson has lost to the eventual state champions each time.
“Getting so close and then losing makes us be like, ‘We’re going to get it next year — we’re going to go further,’” Domian said. “I think it drives us to work harder in the offseason. When we do get there, we’re going to feel like we earned it.”
This may come to a surprise if someone were to watch Domian spike the ball now, but she used to struggle with shoulder strength. Ella had several rotator cuff injuries throughout her career, so she had to go to physical therapy to strengthen her shoulders.
“I’m a lot stronger in my shoulder now and work out — I do lots of pyrometrics to make sure everything’s mostly safe when I do it,” Domian said. “I don’t like the injuries and don’t want that to happen to me again, so I make sure I’m getting stronger while strengthening my joints and that everything works well.”
Domian said she was “thrown in” to volleyball after not wanting to continue playing soccer and instead wanted to tryout the piano. A little while after quitting soccer, Ella was talked back into playing a sport and was first introduced to volleyball in third grade with the SMASH program.
This led Domian to wanting to do more with volleyball, such as playing school ball, for a club team and also training outside of that as Ella said she had a “natural gift” for it. Outside of her talent, Domian says the sport makes her really happy and realized how competitive she was through volleyball.
Even though she’s not the desired height colleges want with a hitter at 5-8, Ella has quite the vertical jump to get above the net with ease for momentum-altering spikes. Domian tried out several positions growing up since no one knew how tall she was going to be.
“I have never gotten the perfect height, so I started out as a setter,” Domian laughed. “My coaches were like, ‘Maybe she can pass,’ but she couldn’t do that so well. Then they were like, ‘Let’s hit.’ It turned out I can hit and jump.
“After hitting, I realized I want to hit — it’s the most exciting spot for me on the court, so I wanted to do whatever it took no matter what was holding me back like my height. I had to find a way to jump.”