Callan Molle never thought she would end up at Louisiana State University when she graduated from Olentangy High School in 2012.
She started off at Otterbein University, playing for the Cardinals' volleyball team. But now she is preparing to move to Baton Rouge, where she will be a member of the LSU sand volleyball team.
"My volleyball career has definitely had its share of ups and downs, but I think everything has finally worked out the best for me," Molle said. "When I graduated from high school, I was planning on playing four years of indoor volleyball and LSU never even crossed my mind. LSU didn't even have a sand volleyball team back then, so I feel really fortunate that I'm going there now. It feels like this was meant to be."
LSU started its sand volleyball program last year and had its inaugural season this spring, finishing 6-10. Molle is one of five players in the Tigers' first recruiting class who signed exclusively for sand volleyball.
"Callan brings maturity and a great perspective of collegiate athletics to our program," LSU associate head coach Russell Brock said in a news release. "... The first time I saw her recruiting video and read about her passion to commit fully to sand volleyball, I knew she was the type of player we needed to add. She is a great defender with a wonderful ability to read hitters, and she has excellent quickness. Her ability to control the ball and her shot-making skills are her strongest assets. Callan will be a strong and important part of our program."
In 2009, the NCAA recognized sand volleyball as being an "emerging sport" for women. That recognition was met with resistance, as 63 Division I schools filed a petition calling for the sport to be removed from college programs.
In early 2010, the NCAA put the case to a vote. Of the 284 votes cast by Division I schools, 166 (58.5 percent) were against keeping sand volleyball on the list of emerging sports.
However, 12 more votes were needed to reach the required percentage (62.5) to remove it from the list.
Sand volleyball made its NCAA debut in the spring of 2012. That season, 16 Division I schools, most of which are in Florida or California, offered the sport. That number rose to 28 in 2013 and 38 this past season, with Nebraska being the only Big Ten Conference school to offer the sport.
Forty Division I schools must offer sand volleyball before the NCAA will recognize the sport as having championship status. Currently, the American Volleyball Coaches Association oversees the sport's postseason.
Sand volleyball and indoor volleyball differ in many ways, aside from having different playing surfaces and the former being played outdoors.
In sand volleyball, each team has five two-player pairings on separate courts as opposed to teams in indoor volleyball having six players on the court simultaneously. To win a match in sand volleyball, a team must win at least three of the five courts, just like in tennis.
Molle, who is 5-foot-4, has played three positions -- setter, outside hitter and defensive specialist -- in indoor volleyball, which she believes has helped her develop the skill set needed in sand volleyball.
"I started as a setter, but I was super tall for my age when I was younger, so I became an outside hitter," she said.
"Then everyone started catching up to me and growing taller than me, so I began playing back-row fulltime as a senior because I figured it gave me my best shot at playing college volleyball.
"I'm really glad I played all of those positions because there's only two people on each team in sand volleyball, so you need to be good at everything, including hitting, passing and playing defense."
As a senior at Olentangy, Molle had a team-high 42 aces and 223 digs and was named special mention all-OCC-Cardinal Division and the Braves' Most Valuable Defensive Player after helping lead Olentangy to a 15-9 record.
"I actually started playing sand volleyball during the summer before my junior year and I loved it right away," Molle said. "But most colleges didn't have sand volleyball programs two years ago, so I didn't play the summer before my senior year because I was focused on finding somewhere where I could play indoor in college.
"I played for Otterbein as a freshman, but I didn't mesh well with their coach and my grades weren't where I wanted them to be during the season, so I left the team after just one season."
Molle continued to take classes at Otterbein while training four days a week at The Spot Athletics (TSA) at Ohio State in an effort to improve her strength, skills, quickness and explosiveness.
She also resumed playing sand volleyball and sent highlight videos to numerous college coaches across the nation.
"Once Callan focused on sand volleyball, she started coming here about a year ago to get in better shape and become a better all-around athlete," TSA strength and conditioning coach Zach Gallmann said. "At the time, I definitely thought she had the potential to play at a Division II school. But she put in the time to become a bigger, stronger and better athlete, and I'm proud of her for improving so much that she's become a Division I athlete."
Molle took an official visit to LSU in March and committed to the Tigers before returning home.
"The campus at LSU is super pretty and I fell in love with it during my visit," she said. "My goals are to make sure my grades stay on track while I learn more about the game from my college coaches. I definitely want to make one of the top three (of the five two-player pairings) before I graduate."
Olentangy coach Michelle Mimna is glad that Molle has the opportunity to continue her volleyball career at LSU.
"I am very happy for Callan," she said. "She is an incredibly hardworking athlete with a great skill set for sand volleyball. She is quick and we always told her she had a golden platform. That means her form with her arms passing the ball is nearly flawless. She is also a great server, which is a huge weapon in the sand game."