NORMAL, Ill. - She might be a little bit of a late bloomer.
Grace Cleveland didn't start playing volleyball until she was 12-years-old even though she was taller than most of the kids at her grade school.
"I was 5-foot-7 in sixth grade," Cleveland said. "They put me right in the middle. They said, 'You're the tall one, go to the middle.'"
Now 6-3, Cleveland is in the middle of everything in her second season at Normal Community. The senior transferred in from a small school in Wisconsin and was an immediate impact player for the Lady Iron in the front row last season but has been spending some time learning the back row this season.
Cleveland has committed to play college volleyball at Purdue. Both her parents played college basketball.
Her father Mark played at Division III Hanover College and her mother Marla (Maupin) was an All-American at Illinois State in the mid-1980's.
Maupin played professionally in France, Sweden, Turkey and Australia. Cleveland is hoping to follow in her mother's footsteps and play pro volleyball in Europe.
"If I want to play overseas, I need to learn how to be a passer. I don't sub (out of the game) as much," Cleveland said. "The learning aspect. I'm still learning the front row but I have so much more to learn about volleyball."
She plays volleyball year-round but one thing she enjoys doing away from the floor is baking.
"Last year I made pumpkin bars," Cleveland said. "My teammates are requesting them this year."
So is her coach.
"They are delicious," said NCHS coach Christine Konopasek. "The icing is on the inside. They can't be too messy. They are easily transported from school to an away game. She's a thinker."
Now the big-hitting Cleveland is thinking about a sweet finish to an already stellar high school career.
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