Four years after walking onto the women’s volleyball team, Marilee Fisher is walking away from Washington University in St. Louis with a diploma, a national championship and a nomination for NCAA Woman of the Year.
“It turned out better than I could have ever dreamed,” the Mountain View High graduate said of her college career.
Fisher added that “Never in a million years” would she have expected so much success. She arrived at Washington – a private school with approximately 7,300 students that boasts one of the top NCAA Division III volleyball programs in the nation – as a walk-on slated to be the third-string setter
The team’s senior starter suffered an injury prior to training camp that summer, however, leaving Fisher to compete with a returnee for the role of No. 1 setter. Fisher not only won the job, she played an integral role in the Bears’ run to the 2009 national championship. The 5-foot-8 freshman led the nation in assists per set (11.40) and was named second team All-American and NCAA Central Region Most Outstanding Player.
Fisher ranked that sensational season as one of the two highlights of her college career.
“The other was being able to work and play alongside such dedicated, passionate and hardworking teammates for the past four years,” she said. “I have made lifelong friends in them and feel very lucky to be their teammate.”
Washington didn’t nab another national title during Fisher’s time on the team, but the Bears exceeded 30 wins in each of the past three seasons. They went as far as the NCAA regionals last fall, losing to Elmhurst College in the final.
“Although we did not end up doing as well as we could have, my senior season was a great way to spend my last year of competitive volleyball – alongside great teammates,” Fisher said. “Although I received personal recognition, I would have given all of it up for our ultimate team goal – winning the national championship.”
The Mountain View native earned first team All-America honors her senior, junior and sophomore seasons. Fisher is one of only four players in Washington history to start at setter all four years, according to head coach Rich Luenemann. She totaled 4,475 assists in her career, which ranks fourth on the school’s all-time list.
“Marilee is an extraordinary setter and an even finer young woman,” Luenemann said. “She is very coachable and trained diligently to enhance her setting from both a skills and a leadership perspective.”
Those characteristics factored into Fisher’s latest honor – an NCAA Woman of the Year nomination. The list of 455 contenders across all NCAA divisions was revealed in June.
Although Fisher wasn’t among the 140 conference honorees announced Thursday who remain in contention for the award, she appreciated being nominated. Fisher said she was “surprised, excited and humbled all at once” when Washington’s sports information director called to tell her that college officials had chosen her for consideration. NCAA schools can submit the names of no more than two graduating student-athletes to their conferences for nomination.
“I did not expect to be chosen in the conference round,” Fisher said. “The University Athletic Association is revered for its academic excellence and is a Division III powerhouse in athletics. I felt incredibly humbled to have been chosen to represent such a distinguished and well-respected conference.”
Fisher surmised that her “determination, hard work and dedication to things I am passionate about led to my nomination.”
While her volleyball career at St. Louis is over, Fisher isn’t through with the sport – or the school.
After graduating in the spring with a degree in chemistry (and a 3.59 GPA), Fisher said she is returning to St. Louis next month to take a year of classes in preparation for the Graduate Record Exam. She plans to apply to graduate schools for pharmacology.
When Fisher is not studying, expect to see her setting.
“Absolutely yes!” Fisher said when asked if she plans to continue playing volleyball. “I jumped on that as soon as I could – I joined a club team in St. Louis and traveled to Louisville, Ky., to play in club nationals back in May. I look forward to playing more indoor volleyball as well as grass and sand volleyball.”