WINONA LAKE – Athletes find it’s difficult to leave a lasting legacy for one program. Caylie Teel has now done it at two.
The Grace College senior wrapped up her final season with the Lancer volleyball program with a backpack full of awards, putting a bow on eight years of big-time performances dating back to her prep days as a Tippecanoe Valley alum.
It started with a Crossroads Attacker of the Week award and culminated earlier this week with All-American honors. That’s the type of season Teel had.
The weekly award, given in Mid-August as Grace opened its volleyball schedule, saw Teel win multiple weekly awards, then NCCAA awards, and eventually become the Crossroads League Player of the Year after amassing 519 kills and 553 digs. Her 3.5 kills per set led the league, and her digs ranked seventh among all league players. Notable among the statistics was a note provided by Grace College Sports Information Director Josh Neuhart, who found that Teel was the only volleyball player in America this year to record at least 500 kills and 500 digs, including NAIA and NCAA Division I, II and III.
Her continued play into the national postseason saw Teel garner three All-American honors as Honorable Mention NAIA, First Team NCCAA and First Team American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA).
“It’s definitely very humbling,” Teel said. “When others get awards it’s like ‘oh my gosh’ and I’m so proud of them. When I get one, I’m like ‘hey, that’s great.’ I definitely wouldn’t be there without my teammates. It’s humbling. I feel like I did my job as a volleyball player.”
It shouldn’t be a surprise that Teel could escalate into one of the best players in the country. As a coveted high school product at Tippecanoe Valley, Teel posted multiple records, including season and career kills, the latter broken this fall by Sophie Bussard. As Teel went from volleyball stardom to helping her basketball team to a state championship appearance, many wondered if the basketball hooks would get to her. Or if a potential track scholarship could lure her away, given her mom, Lorene (Spearman) Teel, is one of the most decorated track athletes in IHSAA history.
But it was always volleyball, which has been her first love. Even when she went from a big hitter as a high schooler to a libero early on at Grace before moving back to outside hitter as a junior.
“I’ve always enjoyed being a big hitter,” Teel said with a laugh. “I knew my job on the team when I got here was to do what was needed. As a junior, I had to relearn my swing again. It was definitely a transition. But it was a good one. I remembered the swing, how to get on top of the ball. It was a transition that was good for me, and it helped our team, as well.”
Added Valley volleyball coach Mallory Eaton, who was a big influence on Teel’s decision to stick with volleyball, “Caylie was such a pleasure to coach throughout her high school career. I knew she was something special from the first day I met her. Not only was she athletically gifted; she was so driven, intelligent, and just as good of a person off the court as she was on it. Caylie is one of those players you look forward to training every day because she loved to be challenged. Caylie taught me so much as a new head coach and she was an excellent mentor for those coming up through the program. I was so excited for her when she decided to continue her career collegiately. I love bringing our current players to Grace games to watch her play and to hopefully be inspired. She really has accomplished so much at her time at Grace and she deserves every bit of the success. I feel so blessed to be a part of her journey and I am so proud of everything she’s accomplished.”
Teel helped Grace remain a national presence. The team, which won 78 matches during her career, made the NCCAA tournament in back-to-back years for just the fourth time in program history this year and last. Coach Katie Van Hofwegen, who walked onto campus in her first year with Teel, could not have been more happy with one of the stars of her first team.
“Caylie has always been an extraordinary athlete,” said Van Hofwegen, who guided Grace to a 22-17 mark this season and an NCCAA tourney appearance. “She really came into her own. She works really hard. She became an All-American as a libero, and it says something about her that she is now an All-American as an outside hitter.”