Spartans’ libero Sents gives verbal commitment to Missouri

With so much talent coming back to the Grundy Center volleyball team next season, it was important for junior Riley Sents to get the recruiting process out of the way.

That way, when the Spartans try to secure their fifth straight state tournament appearance in 2014, the pressure to decide where to play in college won’t get in the way.

The process officially ended last Friday when the all-state libero gave her verbal commitment to the University of Missouri.

“It feels good to know what I am going to be doing,” said Sents. “The recruiting process is stressful. It’s a relief to get it over with. Now I can look forward to next year and playing with my girls, who I love very much.”

Sents would not disclose her other scholarship offers but said she had options in the Big Ten, Big 12 and the Southeastern Conference.

Missouri played several years in the Big 12 before recently joining the SEC. The Tigers were 35-0 and ranked No. 4 in the nation when they lost to Purdue in the second round of the NCAA tournament on Saturday.

Sents was present for that match in Columbia, Mo., and also saw the Tigers host Florida in an SEC showdown earlier this season and visited the campus for the first time last spring.

“The atmosphere and the crowds were great,” said Sents, who spends a lot of her offseason playing club ball for the Iowa City-based Iowa Rockets. “There were so many fans there to support the team.”

The main reasons Sents gave as to why she chose to commit to Missouri included the fact that she liked the coaches, the campus and that it was a good academic school. She also wanted to play for a top-10 program and has a desire to eventually be one of the best liberos in the country.

Sents’ position on the back row doesn’t usually garner a ton of attention and most NCAA Division I scholarships are reserved for tall, hard-swinging hitters or setters taller than 6 foot.

But Sents has what it takes to dominate on the Division I level. She led the entire state in digs with 789 this past season and also had 71 assists, 24 aces and a serving percentage of .943 while helping the Spartans to a 29-9 record and a fourth straight state tournament appearance.

It was the second straight season Sents has led the state in digs. In 2012, her 752 digs were more than 100 more than the next best player. The Spartans finished as the runner-up in Class 1A that year as well.

“Defense usually doesn’t get much recognition as far as D-I scholarships go, but I just tried to work my hardest and prove myself to them,” said Sents, who was named a second-team all-state 2A selection this past season by the Iowa Girls Coaches Association.

The Spartans met No. 2 Western Christian in the opening round of the Class 2A state tournament this past season and the main priority for the Wolfpack was hitting somewhere where Sents wasn’t standing.

If she didn’t have the attention of volleyball coaches and fans before this past season, there is no doubt Sents will begin the 2014 season as one of Iowa’s best.

And with Missouri set to bring back four seniors next year – including starting libero Sarah Meister – Sents could have a chance to play as soon as she steps on campus in Columbia.