HOUGHTON - Aubrey Havlichek only started playing volleyball competitively in her freshman year of high school, but the 5-foot-9 right-side hitter has shown enough promise to crack Michigan Tech's starting lineup as just a freshman in college.
"Aubrey is a very athletic outside/right-side hitter with a very, very strong arm, fast swing and good jump," Huskies coach Matt Jennings said. "Her potential ability to score points in our conference is great. That's what it boils down to."
Havlichek is the only recruit to this year's team recruited solely by Jennings, with previous coach Orlando Gonzalez starting the process with Tech's other four newcomers.
Michigan Tech freshman right-side hitter Aubrey Havlichek jumps for a hit during a drill during a preseason practice at the SDC Gym as head coach Matt Jennings looks on. Havlichek will be among three freshmen starters when the Huskies open the season Friday. (DMG photo by Stephen Anderson)
"I didn't start recruiting until the spring of my senior year. I was really far behind, but the director of my club (Juggernaut) knew a guy who did recruiting and that's how I got Tech's name," Havlichek said.
That guy was one of Jennings many contacts from his hometown of Chicago, and Tech's first-year head coach pursued Havlichek.
"I wasn't even going to email them because it's a technical school and I'm not going to be an engineer," she said, "but they had the major I wanted (psychology) so I checked them out and now I'm here."
Tech beat out Havlichek's eclectic list of other school choices that included West Texas A&M and St. Leo (Fla.).
"I felt at home here. It was easy to be myself around the girls instantly. I love what Matt's doing. It sounds cheesy, but it kind of just called my name," said Havlichek, who visited in May.
She played on the JV team her first year at Horizon High School in Colorado, but she really took to the sport from there and played the next three years on varsity and for the Juggernaut club, which was also the home club of current Husky Tessa Mauer.
"Going to club was a big wake-up call, but I bought into it, loved the atmosphere and I stuck with it and started varsity the last three years," said Havlichek, who played middle, outside and right-side hitter in high school.
Shortly after leaving her Colorado home, parents Ken and Cindy and younger brother Blake to come to Tech this fall, she missed a week of practice due to a sprained ankle. But, even in limited time she did enough to impress the coaches with both her play and attitude.
"It started out a little rough for me because the system is faster and swing blocking versus traditional, but it's been easy to adapt and everyone is on board," she said.
Blocking is her favorite part of being a right-side hitter, which fits in nicely with Tech's defensive emphasis, and Jennings noted a near-30-inch vertical jump makes up for her relative lack of height.
"Even at the D1 level I've seen 5-foot-9 outside hitters have success," Jennings said. "I have no doubt that she'll be fine.
And, thanks to Jennings, Havlichek believes the Huskies will be just fine, too.
"He has this vision of turning it around. Obviously we know what happened last year, but it's a new slate," said Havlichek, whose hobbies include reading, drawing and hanging out with friends. "I want to come in and help the program change."