Grace Oelrich helped lead the Newberry volleyball team to the Class 1A state championship game in November. The senior outside hitter led the Panthers (23-4) in kills (265), aces (68), and blocks (99).
On Tuesday, Oelrich signed a letter of intent with Rollins College in Winter Park. However, she won’t be playing volleyball.
Although Oelrich was recruited for volleyball, Rollins College didn’t have a spot for her but knew she was a good athlete, so she was handed off to the rowing coach.
“I’m super excited to have this opportunity to learn something new and still play at the next level,” she said. “It’s a blessing in disguise. I was really kind of tired of volleyball so finding a new sport that I can learn while I’m in college and get paid to do is a great opportunity."
Oelrich will receive a $53,000 scholarship for rowing.
“It’s just amazing that if you put in the hard work it will pay off,” said Newberry volleyball coach Hank Rone. “She caught me off guard when she told me she was committed to Rollins but that it was not going to be playing volleyball. She told me she was going to be a rower. It’s a great opportunity for her and I guess I’ve got to learn a new sport.’
Oelrich helped lead the Panthers’ volleyball team to four district titles, including two in Class 5A, and two state championship game appearances.
“She’s been stellar since she’s been here as a freshman,” Rone said. “She was a pivotal part of our whole program."
Oelrich comes from a very athletic family.
Her brother (Nick) and sister (Ashley) both played sports at Newberry and earned an opportunity to play at the next level.
Nick plays football for the University of Florida and Ashley became the first student-athlete to sign with an Ivy League school when she chose to play volleyball at Brown University.
Grace’s height (6’) and her build were factors in securing a scholarship, which she earned after sending a video of herself on a rowing machine at Gainesville Health and Fitness.
Now it’s time to get ready for a different type of conditioning.
“I have to get in really good cardio shape before I get there,” Oelrich said. “It’s definitely going to be a transition from volleyball because this is more cardio and endurance-based. I was told not to row because if I learned the wrong technique it makes it harder for them to teach me.”