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Oak Ridge’s Reagan Howe commits to MAC volleyball

On Friday, Oak Ridge junior Reagan Howe officially announced her verbal commitment to play volleyball at Mineral Area College. Submitted photo

Seven months following a historic volleyball season, Oak Ridge junior Reagan Howe officially announced her verbal commitment to play at the next level via social media on Friday.

Howe will do so at Mineral Area College as she received an offer from the Cardinals during one of her visits on campus back in March. The star middle blocker fielded another offer from Central Methodist, but after touring MAC’s campus twice and with everyone being so welcoming, the choice was an easy one for Reagan.

“It is so exciting to think about,” Howe said. “I am so glad I’ve been given this opportunity especially since I developed such a strong love for volleyball later in my high school career. … Coach [Tim] Copeland was extremely persuasive, checking in on me weekly and explaining how MAC was the perfect place for me.

“I was able to meet players on the team, and the bond they had with each other and their love for the game just felt like something I wanted to be a part of. I think Mineral Area will be a good transition for me coming from a smaller school, and I’m excited to see where I go from there.”

This school year in volleyball, Howe was one of the 30 players selected to the Class 1 All-State team. She asserted herself as one of the best all-around players in Southeast Missouri and finished with the eighth-best hitting percentage (121st nationally) in the Show-Me State at .399.

Along with that, Reagan notched a career-high 365 kills and 59 total blocks, while she was also one of the Bluejays top servers by recording a 92.4% serve percentage with 44 aces. Howe continued to show off her diversity for Oak Ridge by playing the back row as well defensively, recording 202 digs.

Outside of her individual statistics, Howe led the Bluejays to reach their first district championship match in recent memory. Oak Ridge finished with a record of 16-12-1 overall, which marks the seventh-straight season the Bluejays have recorded 16 wins or more.

Howe was under a new head coach this fall in Starla Pulley, who took over the job at Oak Ridge following a long coaching stint at Dexter. Reagan credits Coach Pulley for helping her realize that she could indeed play collegiately as well as improving her own game throughout the fall and right now during the offseason.

“We’ve more recently got back in the gym doing open gyms, which is really exciting,” Howe said. “Even though I wasn’t able to get on a traveling team since I made my decision so late, I have been able to play with friends who currently play collegiate volleyball in my free time. I’m also playing in a sand volleyball league this summer, along with summer training for the regular season.”

In 2025, Reagan will join a MAC volleyball program that had one of its best seasons in program history in 2023. The Cardinals made the NJCAA Division-I Tournament for the fifth-time ever and won both the Midwest District B and Region 16 titles with a record of 22-11.

On MAC’s roster for the last two seasons was a former Southeast Missouri volleyball star in her own right, sophomore setter Alandry Below. The 2022 Advance graduate helped the Hornets win not one but three Class 1 state championships during her high school career.

Back in December, Below accepted an offer to continue her volleyball career at local Division-I university Southeast Missouri State. Howe, of course, hopes to keep playing following her two years at MAC much like Below is going to.

“This was another huge factor in my decision to commit to MAC,” Reagan explained. “I have seen what Coach Copeland has done to improve his players. He has told me how much potential he sees in me, and how I will continue to grow in my last high school season and when I make it to Mineral Area.

“Coach Copeland does a great job of finding colleges for his players to play at after their two years playing for him. I think this will be a great stepping stone for me to see how much I can grow and it will give me time to decide what I want to do, and where I want to go after.”

By choosing to play college volleyball, Reagan is also following in the footsteps of her older sister Maggie, who recently finished her playing career at Stephens College. Maggie was a three-time academic all-conference selection and played in 98 matches over four years.

“For the longest time, I was playing volleyball simply because I knew how much Maggie loved it,” Reagan said. “Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed playing, but as a little sister I kind of just wanted to be like her. I figured I would continue my basketball career and it would be cool that we would have both been collegiate athletes.

“Being able to actually follow in her footsteps and become a college volleyball player feels great. I would definitely credit some of my determination to her as she used to make me continue rep after rep until I cut my hits correctly.”

Another outcome of Reagan’s decision is that her final season of competitive basketball will likely be next school year. Howe, who plays for Southeast Dynasty during the AAU season, has been a force for Oak Ridge’s girls basketball team the past three winters.

Reagan eclipsed 1,000 career points this year and has averaged more than 16 points and seven rebounds per game each of her last two seasons. She also helped the Bluejays record double-digit wins for the first time in program history as a sophomore as Oak Ridge finished with 16 this year.

Even though she’ll certainly miss basketball, this generational athlete is thrilled to continue playing a sport like volleyball where she can truly be herself and just have fun.

“After volleyball season ended this year, I just continued to miss it,” Howe said. “I would come into basketball practice wishing it was volleyball season. My decision had a lot to do with my own attitude. I could tell I was happier on the volleyball court no matter the outcome of the game, whereas when playing basketball, I was growing upset with my performance and feeling kind of burned out.

“After playing travel basketball since seventh grade, I thought it would be harder to make this decision, but it was made clear to me that playing collegiate volleyball was what I really wanted even though it felt strange, and I was worried I was too late. I credit a lot of my changed mindset to Coach Pulley, who was able to teach me so much more about the game and about being a good teammate.

“Honestly, I think I had never considered college volleyball as an option until she showed me how much potential I have and made me feel like I could do anything I put my mind to. With that said, I will always love basketball, and I am excited for my senior season with Coach [Julie] Ward.”

Nick McNeal covers high school sports, college sports and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Cape Girardeau County for the past five years. He can be reached at cbjsports@socket. net.

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