If Rylee Gray plays college volleyball with the same skill she can keep a secret, she’s on track to be an All-American.
The Elkhorn South sophomore-to-be revealed to family that she committed to Nebraska on Tuesday. But she didn’t make it public until Saturday.
Gray told everyone gathered at Johnson Lake near Lexington that she had an announcement.
Cousins squealed, aunts and uncles cheered, grandparents cried and Gray grinned after she opened a box that contained a big chocolate chip cookie frosted like a volleyball with an N in the middle.
Gray is the fourth known recruit for NU’s 2021 class.
Parents Scott and Deb and younger sister Skylar were in on the surprise before Rylee called Nebraska coach John Cook on June 28 to share her decision.
Though she received the scholarship offer a year ago at a Husker camp, Gray wanted to study her options.
“I always thought it would just come to me and I didn’t want to rush anything,” Gray said. “But I also didn’t want to wait so long that no one would give me a scholarship because they had girls committed there.”
During the ensuing 12 months, Gray received letters and offers from around the country before narrowing her final list to two: Nebraska and Stanford.
“I wanted to go to a school known for winning volleyball,” Gray said. “Nebraska and Stanford have won the last three national championships, they’ve typically been successful in volleyball and they have great academic programs.
“It just came down to whether I wanted to play close to home or not.”
Gray also said the 62-year-old Cook told her he would remain Husker coach through her senior season in 2024.
After her club team, Nebraska Elite 15 Revolution, finished second in the open division of the AAU national tournament in Orlando, Florida, last month, Gray said she began focusing more on her college choice. She wanted to make her decision in the 2018-19 school year, but wasn’t sure when the moment would be right.
“After nationals, and how good we did, it just came to me,” Gray said. “I thought about it a lot after nationals, where I wanted to go and what I valued most.
“Family was the top one, to have people who have supported me the whole way come and watch me. Because I wouldn’t be here without them.”
Gray hit .439 her freshman season. She had 308 kills, averaging 2.7 per set while leading Elkhorn South through its first season in the Metro Conference. The Storm finished 26-14 and made it to the semifinals of the Class B state tournament.
She also played basketball and competed in the high jump and discus. Elkhorn South won its first-round state basketball game in March before losing to eventual champion Elkhorn in the semifinals.
When asked if she would stay at Elkhorn South her entire senior year and not graduate at semester, Gray didn’t hesitate. She said she planned to stay and graduate in the spring.
Finishing her last basketball and track and field seasons are part of the high school experience she doesn’t want to miss.
Gray said Cook expects her to contend for a starting role as a middle when she arrives in Lincoln in 2021.
“I would absolutely love to do that,” Gray said. “That’s probably going to be my No. 1 goal when I go there, my first goal.”
With three more seasons of high school and club ball before she puts on a Husker uniform, Gray said there are areas of her game she will work to improve.
“My transition has always been a little, not slow, I just always watch the ball more than I just get off the net and get back in,” Gray said. “It’s gotten better since the beginning of this year. If I would go back and watch the film, I know it’s better.”
Gray also wants to work on faster blocking at the pin and not getting caught going the wrong way. There’s one other area that’s important to her.
“There’s always wanting to be a better teammate,” Gray said. “No one is ever perfect at that, and there’s always room to get better at that.”