DEFOREST — Sophee Mink always has loved to jump.
And with good reason, because the DeForest senior has some serious hops.
The 6-foot-1 Mink demonstrates that when she touches the rim on the basketball court, high-jumps a personal-best 5 feet, 6 inches at the WIAA state meet or reaches high to slam down a kill in volleyball.
Mink started playing volleyball in seventh grade and made varsity as a sophomore. Back then, it had been the sport she said she used to take a break from basketball and track.
Not anymore. Volleyball has become her go-to sport — one she enjoys for its high intensity.
She burst onto the scene after an impressive tryout at Capital Volleyball Academy during the winter of her junior year led to her participation in competitive club volleyball. And that led to interest from colleges before she even played a club match, capped by her oral commitment to High Point University in North Carolina in March.
Mink, who finished second in the high jump at the WIAA Division 1 state track and field meet in June in La Crosse, enters the fall sports season as one of the area’s top girls volleyball players and hopes to help the Norskies challenge Waunakee and Mount Horeb in the Badger North Conference.
“I have never in my life seen a girl join club volleyball that late,” said Scott Schumann, in his second year as DeForest’s coach after leading Waterloo to Division 3 state titles in 2014 and 2015. “I highly doubt it happens. Usually in club volleyball, the girls will start when they are 13 or 14 and they quit when they are 16 or 17. They don’t take it up when they are 17.
“That was impressive, very impressive, to be able to see a girl who just wants to try it in the first place and then makes the team in the second place and then excels. That’s just unheard of. For me, it was really a testament to how hard she works and to her athletic ability.”
After playing middle and outside hitter last season, Mink primarily will play outside hitter this season. Mount Horeb coach Kurt Owen said he believed Mink “is going to have a huge year.”
“I expect us to have really good connections on the court,” Mink said. “We are kind of a young team, but we have played together for a while. So, I think we will work together really well.”
Schumann said the Norskies didn’t try to run the offense through Mink last year after she was shifted from the middle to the outside during the season because she was new to the position.
“Going from the middle to an outside hitter is a very difficult transition because they are used to coming in very fast to the ball and now they have to wait,” Schumann said.
Mink’s move outside permitted DeForest to run a quicker and more effective offense, Schumann said.
“I feel a lot more comfortable on the outside,” the right-handed Mink said.
This season, Mink will be more of a focal point for the attack.
“It’s been awesome,” Mink said of Schumann’s two seasons at DeForest. “It has opened up a lot of things for me, including putting me on the outside.”
She will seek to improve her passing — attempting to become a six-rotation player.
“I would love that,” she said. “I’m willing to do what it takes.”
As a senior, she also will be asked to serve as a leader.
“You have to hold yourself higher when you are older and a leader on the court,” she said. “You have to be mentally strong.”
It figures to be an exciting year ahead for Mink, competing in volleyball and track in high school prior to attending college next year at High Point. She was recruited to High Point by first-year coach Ryan Meek, who had been an assistant at Creighton (where Waunakee senior middle hitter Kiana Schmitt has orally committed). Former Sun Prairie standout Molly Livingston is a senior middle blocker at High Point.
Mink hopes to reach the state track meet for the fourth time in the spring and climb one more step on the podium after her runner-up finish as a junior.
“It’s a definite goal (to win the state title),” she said. “It was very exciting (last June). It was definitely a goal to be on the podium.”
For now, she’s focused on the Norskies’ volleyball season; DeForest earned a No. 6 seeding and fell to Verona in a regional final last year. Waunakee advanced to state from that sectional.
“Waunakee is just loaded, but we will challenge them,” Schumann said. “I think the DeForest-Waunakee rivalry is like the Packers and Bears. It doesn’t matter the records because they raise their level of play because the teams are rivals. … I think the girls are going to have a lot of fun. I think they are going to have a blast this year.”