Oothoudt opts for volleyball at Bethany Lutheran

GETTING VERTICAL — Martin Luther/Granada-Huntley-East Chain/Truman outside hitter Lizzie Oothoudt (right) displays her vertical jump before hammering a cross-court spike over the block set by Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial hitter Deann Streit (13) during the two teams’ opening-round Section 2A, South Sub-Section volleyball playoff match Oct. 21 in Northrop. Oothoudt was recruited by Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato to play volleyball and/or softball. The Jaguars’ standout opted for volleyball, but there’s still a chance she may also play softball in the spring. (Photo by Greg Abel/Sentinel Archives)

NORTHROP — Only a handful of area prep student-athletes each year earn the right to be recruited for two different sports at the collegiate level.

That, however, is the double-edged dilemma faced by recent Martin Luther High School graduate Lizzie Oothoudt.

Oothoudt left an indelible mark in the Martin Luther/Granada-Huntley-East Chain/Truman Jaguar softball program’s record books in spite of missing her entire senior campaign due to the coronavirus pandemic this spring.

But pounding out the Jaguars’ all-time best career diamond statistics in hits (66), batting average (.402), slugging percentage (.664), RBIs (52), triples (12) and home runs (3) did not completely convince the prep three-sport athlete to opt to play softball at Bethany Lutheran College next season.

Well … yet.

The Jaguars’ rare combination of No. 2 hitter and No. 1 server, who lined home 46 aces from the end line and drilled 116 kills near the net during 2019, will take her volleyball skills to the Mankato-based hardwood floor this fall.

“I think I just connected with the game (volleyball) itself more last season,” said Oothoudt, who, ironically, did not merit a place on the 2019 all-Valley Conference team despite her stellar numbers. “I still would like to play softball, but I want to see if I can handle playing one sport (volleyball), in addition to dealing with the academic part of school.”

If Oothoudt achieves her two-fold goal of success both in the classroom and on the volleyball court in the upcoming fall, one of Bethany Lutheran’s assistant softball coaches would be more than elated to see her lace up her spikes for the Vikings next spring.

“We’re in a tough situation now. We’re looking for pitchers since we had one recruit who opted not to compete due to the coronavirus and is staying home to take care of her family, and our other pitcher suffered a hip labrum injury,” said Bethany Lutheran assistant John Oothoudt, Lizzie’s father. “Hopefully, she’ll be able to help us out in the pitching department if everything goes smoothly during the fall term.”

While she didn’t handle the majority of the Jaguars’ duties inside the chalked circle, Lizzie did notch the high school softball program’s No. 3 single-season strikeout total of 46 in 2018. The three-time Sentinel All-Area and two-time all-Valley Conference softball choice also matched the program’s No. 1 single-game mark of nine twice during that same season.

“I know he’s (John) looking for pitchers, but I’d like to play shortstop if I could or any of the outfield positions,” said Lizzie, who hammered opposing hurlers’ deliveries at a team-best .404 clip en route to Jaguar-bests of 18 RBIs and 18 runs scored during her junior campaign. “I like softball in general, but if I don’t play, I’ll miss playing a sport that I grew up with my dad around and he has a real love for the game.”

Lizzie opted to attend Bethany Lutheran due to the closeness and the quaint size of the college campus, but a bonus is having John as a sounding board.

“It’s a plus that he’s connected to the school. If I need advice, he’ll always be there for me,” said Lizzie. “He’s been the main sports influence in my life, while my mom (Debra) has always been my inspiration for schooling and getting through life’s difficult situations. … They’re always encouraging me to do my best.”

Now, before the thought of continuing her softball career at the next level, Lizzie must get prepared for delivering ace serves and digging up opponents’ hard spikes for Bethany Lutheran head volleyball coach John Olmanson’s lineup this fall.

“When I went to Bethany’s volleyball camp last summer, they had me play all the way around,” said Lizzie. “I’m sure what positions I play will depend on how I do when practices start.

“I hope to play outside (hitter) and all around, but being only (5-feet-4), who knows.”

Lizzie opted for volleyball because of “how intense it gets on the court.”

“It’s about how rewarded you feel if you do something well. I’m a person who likes to get loud (vocally), and in volleyball, I get to use that part of my personality in a positive way,” said Lizzie.

Lizzie also will get to express her creative side as she plans to major in graphic design and photography at Bethany Lutheran.

“I was into taking pictures, and I got a real camera a couple of years ago,” said Lizzie. “I entered some of my photos into fairs and people liked them. It’s nice to be able to show what I love to do.”

Hopefully, that will be true pertaining to a possible two-sport athletic career for Lizzie at Bethany Lutheran, too.


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