In late September of 2021, the United States U18 national team fell a bit short in its quest for the FIVB World Championship Title, falling to Italy in the semifinals before beating Serbia in the bronze medal match.
Nebraska commits Bekka Allick, Maggie Mendelson, Harper Murray and Bergen Reilly were on that team. Allick enrolled at Nebraska in the spring of 2022, but the other three ran it back this summer with the U19 team in the Pan American Cup, and 2023 commit Andi Jackson joined them.
The United States didn’t drop a set in the tournament held in Tulsa, Oklahoma, tearing through the competition on the way to the gold medal. They took down Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Peru, Canada and Mexico by a combined scored of 375-197.
“It’s super special,” Reilly, the team’s starting setter, told Hail Varsity. “It felt good getting bronze [in 2021], but we knew we wanted better than that, and so I think it was super cool to get gold and go out on top without dropping a set.”
Reilly, PrepVolleyball.com’s top-rated setter and fifth overall prospect, started four of the five matches and took home not only the best setter award but also the overall tournament MVP honors. She chipped in five aces and four kills (on eight swings) in addition to guiding the U.S. offense to a high hitting percentage throughout the tournament.
“It was so cool,” Reilly said. “I really wasn’t expecting it at all; there are so many good players in that tournament. So it’s definitely really special, especially being from South Dakota. Volleyball is a little behind here, it’s not super big. It was just super cool to see that my hard work is paying off, not just in South Dakota but also nationally and internationally.”
Murray, the top-rated player in the 2023 class, took home the best spiker award as well after totaling 26 kills on over .400 hitting while playing four of the five matches.
Jackson and Mendelson, both middle blockers, combined for at least 34 kills on .450 hitting, 10 blocks and eight aces (the full box score for one match is unavailable).
Reilly said the opportunity to play with her future college teammates for USA Volleyball has been incredibly valuable as the group prepares to make the jump to the next level.
“I’ve talked to a lot of people about that, that it’ll just make going to college so much easier and the transition so seamless because we’ve already played with each other, we know each other so well, and so there won’t be that couple of weeks of awkward,” Reilly said. “We’re past that already, and so I think that’s super cool and we can just get right to work when we go to Nebraska.”
While Reilly, Murray and Jackson head back home to prepare for their senior years of high school, Mendelson will suit up for the Huskers this season (in both volleyball and basketball) after reclassifying to 2022 and enrolling early. She served as team captain for the U19 team in addition to making an impact on the court.
“She’s obviously a fantastic player, but she’s an even better teammate,” Reilly said of Mendelson. “That’s why she was chosen captain for us. She’ll get on you and she’ll push you but she’s also just such a great person. But she’s an insane player too. I don’t know how she can do two sports; it blows my mind. She’s just such a good athlete and such a good player, but she’s definitely an even better person.”
Before the cup, which ran July 18-23, USA Volleyball invited 20 players for a training block July 6-15 from which the roster for the Pan American Cup was selected. Among the eight players who didn’t make the 12-player final roster were three more future Huskers, 2024 commits Skyler Pierce, Ayden Ames and Olivia Mauch. The trio committed one after the other in June after the communication period for Division I coaches and the class of 2024 opened.
“It was super cool,” Reilly said about training with the new commits. “I’d never met any of them before, so it was cool to just kind of get to know them and obviously play with them a little bit too. They’re all really good players too and I think the future’s looking really good.”
All in all, the USA experience proved to be a two-and-a-half-week grind that paid off for the future Huskers in a variety of ways.
“It’s definitely super intense and it’s really hard,” Reilly said. “But it’s a super rewarding thing, just kind of seeing how much you grow. And it’s also just so cool to kind of get to play with a bunch of players that have the same mindset as you and are at the same level as you. And so I think that part is super fun, but it’s not all fun and games. It’s really hard to grind but it’s all worth it.”
Reilly went right back to work as soon as she returned home from the competition, competing in a team camp on Monday and Tuesday. She’s taking a break now, but she’ll soon begin preparing to lead Sioux Falls O’Gorman High School in its quest for a third straight volleyball state title.
“We definitely are up there and contending again, and I think that if we don’t win, that’s a disappointment,” Reilly said. “But I think that the chances are looking pretty good and our team looks pretty solid for sure.”
The volleyball season will put a cap on Reilly’s senior year of high school as she is planning to graduate midyear and enroll at Nebraska in January. For now, however, the work continues.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.