Halee Van Poppel knew she didn’t have to go out of state to play college volleyball, but there was always a part of her that was intrigued by the idea.
Argyle’s junior outside hitter orally committed to Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. on Tuesday, giving the Lady Eagles — the defending Class 4A state champs — four players who have signed with or committed to a Division I program this school year.
“I’m excited for all of us,” Van Poppel said. “Playing Division I volleyball is not too big [a stage] for me. I knew God had a plan, and this is the best place for me.
“I always imagined myself doing something different by going out of state.”
Oral commitments are nonbinding. The first day a class of 2017 recruit can sign a national letter of intent is Nov. 9.
Argyle has been an active recruiting target this year. Beyond Van Poppel, seniors Eighmy Dobbins (Texas Tech) and Alexa Bass (Oral Roberts) have already signed. Junior Allison White committed to Texas Tech on Feb. 10.
Dobbins, who originally committed to Division I Texas A&M-Corpus Christi before switching to the Red Raiders, and Bass were two of four Lady Eagles who took part in the early signing period in November.
Seniors Strealy Sizelove (Dallas Baptist) and Melanie Carlisle (Henderson State) were two Division II signees in November. Senior Emma Malone committed last week to Division II West Texas A&M, bringing the total number of signings and commitments to seven.
Head coach Clark Oberle said there are likely more to come.
“It brings a lot of credibility to 4A volleyball, that’s for sure,” Oberle said. “I’m excited because I know how much all these girls love to play.”
Oberle said he is excited to have Van Poppel back, and her role is expected to expand after two standout seasons on varsity. In 2015, Van Poppel racked up 182 kills and a .353 hitting percentage despite being injured early in the season.
“[Halee] is super athletic, she has a great vertical jump and I will definitely use her in all six rotations for us next season,” Oberle said. “I expect big things from her.”
Belmont competes in the Ohio Valley Conference, and Van Poppel said she is being looked at for back row and as an outside hitter.
“I play six rotations for my club team Texas Image,” Van Poppel said. “That’s where Belmont was able to see me play the most, and they said I have the potential to play in several spots on the floor.
“It’s not a huge school, but I really liked it. They are also big into academics, which is extremely important to me. I also know I don’t have to deal with the stress of having to make a college decision during my senior year. I’m good now.”
STEVE GAMEL can be reached at 940-566-6869 and via Twitter at @NewspaperSteve.