Savannah Roberts vividly remembers the time she first attended an interest meeting for women’s club volleyball at Clemson.
Kelsey Stieby’s memory of the same meeting is … a little blurrier.
“When Savannah sat next to me, it didn’t click in my head who she was at first,” admits Stieby.
Roberts and Stieby were AAA volleyball rivals in the state of South Carolina, competing for Powdersville High School and Bishop England High School respectively. Roberts’ Patriots threatened Bishop England’s longtime reign of state championships only to fall in three straight sets in heartbreaking fashion in 2017.
“I guess Kelsey yelled at her team and they went on to win the last three sets,” jokes Roberts.
A year later, Roberts and her teammates pulled off the stunner, defeating Stieby’s Bishops to claim the AAA trophy. The two again played against one another in the North-South All-Star Game. Both were honored as players of the year at the AAA level — Stieby from the South Carolina Coaches Association of Women’s Sports and Roberts from the South Carolina High School League.
Fast forward a few years and the two are now teammates on the court. Stieby joined the club volleyball team as a second-semester freshman. Roberts, meanwhile, delayed trying out for the team until after the global pandemic was a thing of the past.
Today, the two serve as executive officers in the club. Stieby is president and Roberts is vice president. On April 15, they led the club volleyball “orange” team to a national championship at the Division I-AA level in Kansas City, Missouri — one of two first-place finishes at the National Collegiate Volleyball Federation tournament for Clemson.
“The feeling is surreal; it can overwhelm you,” says Stieby, a computer science major who graduates from Clemson in May and begins her career with Ally Financial in Charlotte, North Carolina later this summer. “The best the team had ever finished at nationals previously was fifth place.”
Stieby, a setter, was named Most Valuable Player at the conclusion of the event, while Roberts and Madison Jacoby were voted to the all-tournament team. Together, they led the Tigers to a 9-0 record at the event, losing only two sets overall (out of 20 total).
“The bonding that occurs throughout the year is what made a difference for us,” says Roberts, a middle hitter. “We’re really close off the court, and that camaraderie transfers over to the court as well.”
That was evident the morning of the final day at nationals. They gathered with their eight teammates to cheer on the club’s “purple” team, which actually won the first national championship in school history with a 2-0 win over the University of North Carolina. Not to be outdone, the “orange” group also prevailed later in the day, knocking off the University of Dayton 2-0 in its final.
“We watched their championship match in the morning and were super happy for them, which made us want to win even more,” says Roberts, a junior industrial engineering major who is currently doing a co-op with Electrolux in Anderson.
Roberts won’t graduate from Clemson until May 2024, meaning she’ll compete as a senior without Stieby by her side. It’ll be a different feeling from the one she’s enjoyed the past couple of years. Stieby plans on cheering her on from afar.
Some rivalries aren’t meant to last.
Orange Team Results, Division IAA — NCVF Tournament (April 13-15 – Kansas City, Mo.)
Pool Play: Purdue (2-1), Truman State (2-0), CSU Chico (2-0)
Challenge Round: Baylor (2-1), Minnesota (2-0)
Bracket Play: CSU Long Beach (2-0), UC Irvine (2-0), Kentucky (2-0), Dayton (2-0)
All-Tournament: Kelsey Stieby (MVP, setter), Savannah Roberts (middle hitter), Madison Jacoby (libero)
Purple Team Results, Division IIIAA — NCVF Tournament (April 13-15 – Kansas City, Mo.)
Pool Play: Maryland (0-2), Florida (2-1), Louisville (2-0)
Challenge Round: Loyola Marymount (2-0), North Carolina (2-0)
Bracket Play: NC State (2-0), Oklahoma (2-0), North Carolina (2-0)
All-Tournament: Cierra Felder (MVP, right side), Carter Lane (setter), Preslee Owen (libero)