COLUMBUS — There’s something that stands out when looking at the Central Community College volleyball roster.
It doesn’t feature a single player from outside Nebraska.
In fact, every athlete Central head coach Mary Young has recruited in her 23 years with the Raiders came from a Nebraska high school.
“I guess my philosophy has always been, if we can find someone in Nebraska who can do the job, we’re going to take the Nebraska kid,” she said.
Young has received plenty of inquiries from out-of-state and international players over the years, but she’s stuck with that strategy — and it’s paid off as she created a volleyball powerhouse at Central.
The current roster includes a couple of Omaha players, three from Columbus schools and several from small towns across the state, including Eustis, Filley, Chambers and Arcadia, which happens to be Young’s hometown.
Young said in-state players often come from good families with strong values and a solid work ethic.
“I think I’ve found that in a lot of the athletes I’ve recruited,” she said.
It also helps build a fan base when family members and friends can make it to matches.
“Of course, when you’re winning that always helps,” Young said. “And if you’re not winning and you still have Nebraska kids, I think that really helps, too.”
Young has done plenty of winning since taking over as the Raiders’ head coach at age 25.
She’s guided the Central volleyball team to 17 conference titles and nine appearances in the national tournament, including six straight trips.
The Raiders, who are 24-7 and ranked 10th in NJCAA Division II, have their sights set on a seventh consecutive national tourney berth this season as Young closes in on 700 career victories.
She credits previous coaches such as Marge Burkett, who started the Central (then Platte College) volleyball program in 1972 and led the team to two national tournaments, for building a solid foundation at the school.
Young learned the value of setting high expectations from Sharon Vanis, a star volleyball and basketball player at Central who later coached both sports at the local school.
“She was tough and had a lot of demands,” said Young, who played for Vanis while attending Central.
“I think that probably set the tone for me as a young coach.”
Young, who has coached 84 all-conference players and 23 All-Americans, has received plenty of support throughout her career at Central, including from longtime athletic director Jack Gutierrez and campus President Matt Gotschall.
She also has an assistant coach Young knows she can count on — her nephew Jared Johnson.
Johnson, who is in his eighth season as a part-time assistant, was named the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Two-Year College National Assistant Coach of the Year in 2016.
“We know each other pretty well,” Young said of Johnson, who played volleyball at Peru State College.
Young — the winner of 13 conference coach of the year, 12 Region IX coach of the year and three AVCA West Region coach of the year honors — credits Johnson, a counselor at Columbus Middle School, for bringing a different perspective to the team.
“I think it’s good to have the complementary personalities of a male and female,” she said.
Having all that Nebraska talent doesn’t hurt either.