BIDWELL, Ohio — For the sport of volleyball, Angel Toler isn’t physically tall.
However, that has never deterred her from dreaming big.
And, last Thursday morning in the River Valley High School Media Center, Toler’s dreams became a reality —when she announced her intention to play college volleyball for the University of Findlay.
Toler was flanked at her signing ceremony by her parents, Chris and Denise Toler, as Denise also served as her three-year head coach at River Valley.
Also joining her were her three younger brothers, River Valley High School Athletic Director Rich Stephens, and River Valley High School Principal T.R. Edwards.
Toler will now play for the Oilers, an NCAA Division II program under the direction of head coach Wick Colchagoff.
In his 20 years at Findlay, “Coach Wick” has amassed 401 career victories.
The Oilers are changing conferences, effective June 1, from the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference to the Great Midwest Athletic Conference — and playing schools farther south.
Toler will give the Oilers an experienced libero, who has played travel-ball volleyball since the sixth grade.
“It’s a dream to be able to play college volleyball. I’ve always wanted to do this since I was younger, but I honestly never really thought I would be able to because I was so small. Being five-foot-four and playing college volleyball is something you don’t see very often, especially being at the level (Division II) that Findlay is,” Angel said. “I’m pretty excited. I’m also excited about the opportunity to work on and develop my skills even more. I know that a lot of people don’t have this opportunity. I also want to meet of all my teammates because I’ve only met them one time. I’ll develop life-long friendships with that too.”
Toler was a three-year varsity member for the Raiders, including captain her senior season.
As a senior, she captured Division III District 13 second-team accolades, as well as all-Tri-Valley Conference Ohio Division honors.
However, Toler said she wasn’t originally looking to play volleyball — when she applied and was subsequently accepted to Findlay.
She said both the University of Rio Grande and Wittenberg expressed interest, but she was more interested in Findlay’s Business Management program — with a minor in Music.
Toler said the Oilers’ assistant coach —Annie Coger —contacted her.
“I had been accepted to Findlay, but I didn’t really look into their volleyball program. She (Coger) messaged me on my recruiting website, and actually asked me to come practice with them. I was there with two other girls my age and we practiced with the varsity team. That’s how they found me,” said Toler.
Toler said she was used to playing travel volleyball and attending camps against players older, and almost a foot taller, than her.
She said “something started to click” after playing against girls in club ball who had committed to Division I programs.
In fact, she said Middle Tennessee asked her to join its program as a walk-on.
“I realized I can do this and it didn’t scare me anymore,” Angel said. “You just have to go with it and just go play.”
Denise Toler coached her daughter in club ball —before coaching her for her first three years of high school.
She was primarily a setter as a senior, but “I definitely prefer to play libero”, she said with a slight laugh.
“She played on a high-level 18-and-under travel team. She is used to playing against girls older than her,” Denise said. “With her hard work and all of the things she wanted to do, all of the things fell into place this year. Doors opened and closed right when they were supposed to.”
The coach, and mother, talked about first-hand witnessing Angel evolve into a quality player for a sport she loved.
And now, Angel’s love for volleyball has resulted in a dream becoming reality.
“It was very rewarding for me and for our family. My husband (Chris) was my assistant coach in our travel ball, so he got to be with us a lot as well. Watching Angel grow to love something that I had loved from the time she was little, she had been around the game since probably before she went to school, because I coached years ago. Watching her develop and grow that love herself, and then wanting to pursue getting better, it became not so much a drive for me, but for her own pursuit to get better,” Denise said. “As she matured as a player, she was able to take on some of that leadership herself and own some of her game. That was really fun to watch.”
Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106