By Teddy Rydquist
Leader Staff Writer
Oxford Wildcats senior middle blocker Emma LaBarge was among 30 young women to receive Division 1 All-State Honorable Mention from the Michigan Interscholastic Volleyball Coaches Association (MIVCA) on December 14.
A four-year varsity player for the Wildcats, this is far from the first individual accolade LaBarge has earned, as she was an All-Oakland Activities Association (OAA) and All-Region selection each of the last two years.
“I was super honored and super pumped,” she shared regarding her emotions when she heard the news. “I think, if I remember right, my mom actually found out from someone’s Facebook post and then, shortly after that, my coaches congratulated me, too.”
One of Oxford’s most decorated players in recent memory, reaching All-State status was an individual goal LaBarge had entering her final prep campaign, but, demonstrating a team-first attitude, it was not her main priority.
“Mostly, I was focusing on the team, but it was kind of on the back of my mind, as well,” she said. “I was working toward just the next step, but mostly, just the team and trying to better our teamwork together.”
Rounding out their 2020 season at 21-10, the Wildcats fell to the rival Lake Orion Dragons, 3-0, in the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) District 5 semifinals at Holly High School on Nov. 4.
Fourth-year head coach Brian Kim’s roster was heavy in upperclasswomen, as, in addition to LaBarge, the team featured fellow seniors Julia Blair, Gabby Comito, Cat Dobies, Meghan Lupu, Molly Miller, and Brooke Zeiter.
Having plenty to pick from, LaBarge shared a couple of her favorite moments from her Oxford career.
“This actually happened both freshman year and this year, the National Anthem never queued, so our team sung it with the audience, that was pretty cool. And then, our district game against Lake Orion last year (2019), we lost, but it was probably one of the best games we had as a team.”
While her Wildcat playing days are now behind her, LaBarge will continue to further herself as a student-athlete at Angelo State, officially signing with the school at the Oxford High School Performing Arts Center on Nov.11.
Located in San Angelo, Texas, Angelo State, whose women’s athletic programs are known as the Rambelles, competes in the Lone Star Conference at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division II level.
“It was pretty by chance, I was at Nationals in Orlando, I think sophomore year, so it was in June, and a lot of college coaches walk around at that tournament, that’s probably the one with the most recruiters,” she said of how this match came to be. “The head coach, Chuck Waddington, had seen me. I was playing out of my position at the time, so it gave me a little more playing time because we had a player that was hurt. This was when I was playing for Team Detroit, so he told my coach he was interested and she kind of talked to him about me and then gave me his card because that was before he could actually talk to me himself because of the recruiting rules.
“I had a couple of phone calls and visited out there, really liked it, and then this past summer, I went to their volleyball camp and that kind of solidified it, even though I knew I already really wanted to go there because it was a great opportunity, love the school and the team.”
Continuing Oxford’s tradition of student-athletes succeeding in the classroom and making a difference off the court, LaBarge’s contributions to the school go far beyond simply blocks and spikes.
“I’m part of the National Honor Society (NHS) and then I partook in LINK Leaders before school started,” she said. “That’s where we kind of get all the freshmen acclimated to the high school and stuff like that, even though it was a little different this year.”
Following her June graduation from Oxford High School, LaBarge plans to move to San Angelo in mid-to-late-July. For those interested in following her collegiate career, Angelo State’s athletic website is angelosports.com and they can be found on Twitter @angeloathletics.
Looking ahead to the Wildcats’ 2021 volleyball team, the program is projected to return juniors Raegan Bell, Kealey Kolp, Baylee Proctor, and Ava Wiscombe and sophomores Margaret Feltz, Paityn Hasselbring, Ashley Horne, Rachel Townsend, and Carleigh Turek.
Per a couple of people close to the program, Kim, who operates his own travel volleyball organization and is a successful businessman, is currently weighing whether he will return in 2021.