CHICAGO — Of the 700-plus volleyball players competing in the 64-team NCAA tournament that begins Thursday, only one graduated from a Chicago Public School.
That would be Whitney Young alumna and Wrigleyville native Danielle Schroeder, a sophomore outside hitter who has helped Seton Hall advance to the NCAA tourney for the first time.
"With CPS, it's not really like the suburbs in terms of volleyball success," said Schroeder, whose Pirates (28-7) face BYU (25-4) Thursday in Tuscon, Ariz. "I'm just so excited to show Chicago what I'm really made of and prove to girls in [a Chicago public] high school now that they can play on a Division I team and make the NCAA tournament."
Justin Breen says Schroeder embraces her public school upbringing:
Schroeder joins Chicago private-school products Mary Grassano (St. Ignatius, Oakland University) and Jenny Phelan (Mother McAuley, Lipscomb) as the city's only players to reach NCAA volleyball's biggest stage.
Schroeder, who has 198 kills and 44 digs this year, preferred the public-school route ever since entering Hawthorne Scholastic Academy in kindergarten.
"I loved CPS, especially its diversity," Schroeder said. "And I wanted to go to a city school instead of traveling to the suburbs."
As a Whitney Young freshman, Schroeder participated on the volleyball and soccer teams while playing the violin for the school's Advanced Orchestra. But her volleyball success — she guided Whitney Young to three city titles and was a two-time city MVP — forced her to focus on that sport, especially as Division I schools started showing her interest. In addition to her prep accolades, Schroeder also was an accomplished club volleyball player for Chicago Elite.
"Danielle is a powerful athlete with a strong competitive mindset," said Chicago Elite director Joel Anderson, of Uptown. "She is a fearless attacker."
Schroeder chose New Jersey-based Seton Hall because she wanted to play in the Big East and the school has a strong program for her major, nursing.
After losing in the Big East tournament finals, Seton Hall had to sweat out Sunday's NCAA selection show to see if it would earn an at-large bid.
When the Pirates' players saw their school on the big screen, "we just all jumped up and started dancing," Schroeder said.
For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: