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Volleyball: Junior college pays off for Woodbury grad

Woodbury's Mikhaila Ness is headed to Bemidji State this fall after two seasons of junior college volleyball at Dakota County Technical College. (Submitted photo)

Woodbury's Mikhaila Ness did not plan on playing volleyball at the college level as she neared graduation from Woodbury High School in 2015.

But Dakota County Technical College coach Jen Bowman convinced the Royals volleyball player to continue playing the sport at the Rosemount-based community college. Two years later, Ness has a regional most valuable player award and a spot on the Bemidji State University volleyball roster this fall.

Ness said her mindset originally was to focus on her education once she graduated from high school. With that in mind, volleyball was not her top priority.

"Honestly, I did not want to play volleyball in college at all just because I struggled with my academics in high school," Ness said. "I kind of wanted to focus on academics."

But Bowman was quick to reach out to her Woodbury coach and convince her to talk with Ness.

"My high school coach was like, 'I know you are not thinking about playing, but you should give it a look,'" Ness recalled.

The decision to play paid off as she has recorded some standout statistics for the Blue Knights this fall. The outside hitter racked up 511 kills this fall as a sophomore, which ranks her ninth in the nation among leaders at the NJCAA Division II level. Her hitting percentage this season was .236.

With those numbers, Ness was named the Region XIII MVP.

Bowman said Ness, who ended up being her first recruit at DCTC, drew her attention as a powerful hitter at Woodbury High School. While most junior college transfers end up playing at the NCAA Division III or NAIA levels, she said Ness stood out on the court during her two seasons with the Blue Knights.

"Mikhaila was a member of the All-Region team as a freshman and was a huge part of our offense from the start, but Mikhaila definitely improved her vision while hitting and her range of shots," Bowman said in an email. "She also became a leader on and off the court in the two years she was with our program."

Other four-year schools besides Bemidji State showed interest in having Ness transfer after her sophomore year with DCTC. But Ness chose Bemidji State for both the opportunity to play volleyball at a Division II level and to pursue a sports management major that relates to her love of athletics.

After developing her skills into a top player at the junior college level, Ness appreciated her two years playing volleyball at DCTC.

"Honestly, the coaches are so good at Dakota County," Ness said. "It literally was the best decision."