By Seth Stringer | 315-4421 | @SethSnwfdn | [email protected]

It was the hardest decision Bayley McMenimen’s ever made.

On one hand she had a trio of Ivy league schools — Harvard, Yale and Cornell — courting her talents at setter.

On the other she had Minnesota, a volleyball program currently ranked No. 2 in the nation and headed by Hugh McCutcheon, the only coach ever to lead the United States men’s and women’s indoor volleyball teams to Olympic medals.

She went to all the schools’ camps, talked to the coaches, followed the programs. She dotted her i’s, crossed her T’s. 

Things cleared up a bit when the Gophers dropped out of the race last November, but they reemerged this past June to let the Niceville junior know there was a spot open for the 2018 recruiting class. Then it boiled down to two programs.

“As an athlete, Minnesota was always my first choice because of coach McCutcheon,” said McMenimen, who helped lead Niceville to a 17th straight postseason appearance this year.  “As a student, my heart was set to study and play at Harvard.” 

A visit last week to Minneapolis validated her gut feeling. Now in two years she’s set to play for the Gophers, one of the most lauded teams in the land.

“Ultimately I found Minnesota to be a fantastic school along with having one of the best volleyball programs in the country,” McMenimen said. “I’ll pursue my education further after undergrad and hope to play professionally overseas as well.  I just couldn’t say no to trying to have it all since I’ve worked very hard at both (academics and athletics). My parents always tell me to go for my story, and I couldn’t be more excited to take their advice.

“I feel so stress-free right now. Minnesota is absolutely everything I ever wanted.”

And McCutcheon was the dream college

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