Michigan Tech adds two volleyball players to its program

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HOUGHTON, Mi. Michigan Tech volleyball coach Matt Jennings has added a transfer and freshman to his 2020 incoming class. Setter Lina Espejo-Ramirez comes to Houghton from Midland College in Texas. Defensive specialist Leiya Rybicki, a native of Freeland, Michigan, follows in her parents' and brothers' collegiate path with the Huskies.

Lina Espejo-Ramirez is originally from Bogota, Colombia. As a 5-foot-10 setter, she played the last two seasons with Midland College of the National Junior College Athletic Association. She was a two-time All-Western Junior College Athletic Conference / Region V West selection and started 59 matches in two seasons. She tallied 921 career assists (just under 1/2 of team total) and hit .260, averaging 2.3 kills per set and 2.6 points per set. The team went 35-22 and was 2018 conference tournament runners up. She was a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, engineering club, and math club.

Espejo-Ramirez played for the Colombia National Team from 2015-17. In 2017, Columbia was the Champion at the U18 Pan-American Cup in Cuba and placed 14th at the U18 World Championship in Argentina. Her 2016 team was runner up at the U23 South American Cup in Peru and fourth at the U18 South American Cup in Peru. The 2015 team placed fourth at the U16 South American Cup in Peru. She also set for her hometown club in Bogota and won the 2015 National Championship.

Espejo-Ramirez earned an associate's degree in engineering in May 2020 from Midland and will pursue chemical engineering at Tech.

"Lina is a talented and proven setter that will bring valuable experience and a real understanding of the game with her to our gym," Jennings said. "She's a competitor and has a poised and confident court presence that will benefit our team immediately. I believe her and Laura will complement each other quite well, and I expect the pair to consistently provide the quality setting and leadership needed for us to continue executing at a high level. A year of playing together every day will really help Lina with adjusting to our system and running the offense. She delivers a consistent ball, leads her hitters well, and makes good decisions. She is an offensive threat as well.

"Lina's experience setting for her country's National Team and her exposure to international competition and coaching at a very high level has influenced her development and a very high volleyball IQ. After successfully running the court for two seasons as a setter and right side for Midland, Lina arrives having already experienced the pressures of performing at the college level. Her understanding of what it takes to effectively balance life as a student-athlete will undoubtedly serve her well in her new role as a Husky. Lina is a very dedicated student, with impressive volleyball experience, and a lot to offer our team. I am very grateful and excited to have her joining us this fall and can't wait for her to get here and join the team."

Leiya Rybicki, a 5-foot-7 defensive specialist, played three seasons for Michigan Elite Volleyball Club (2017-19) and was a three-sport varsity athlete at Freeland High School in volleyball, softball, and track. In 2019, she was named all-conference honorable mention and academic all-state and her team was sectional champions, regional champions and finished second in the conference. She was a second-team all-conference selection and academic all-state as a junior. Her team was sectional and conference champs in 2018. Rybicki was on the National Honors Society and plans to major in computer science or engineering.

Rybicki's father Mike played football and mother Lori played basketball for Michigan Tech. Her twin brothers Ben and Joe played football for the Huskies.

"We are very fortunate to have Leiya headed our way this fall," Jennings said. "She's a skilled player and a selfless teammate who will add solid ball control to our backcourt and depth to our defense and passing units. A high character young woman, Leiya's former coaches rave about her coachability, team-first attitude, and willingness and ability to step in and play different roles when needed. She brings an excellent work ethic and winning mentality with her to the gym too.

"Having won back to back regional championships, she was a big part of helping her high school team advance in the Michigan state tournament the past two seasons. Her time training for Michigan Elite has prepared her well for this level and puts her in a position to make a positive difference for our team from the get-go.

"Leiya is an exceptional student who will graduate near the top of her class this spring, making her a great fit for Tech, the team and the way we operate here as student-athletes. We're humbled that she has decided to continue the family Husky sports legacy and play for us up here. We know we're getting a quality person who will not only contribute on the court and excel in the classroom but who will be an excellent teammate as well.

"I'm confident Leiya will do good things in her time here as long as she continues to tap into what has gotten her this far and remains focused on improving her game and helping her team get better."

The 2020 incoming class will also include Sarah Knoll (Grand Haven, Mich.), Kaycee Meiners (DeForest, Wis.), Lindy Oujiri (Osseo, Minn.), Lauren Richards (Appleton, Wis.), and Kate Walch (Green Bay, Wis.).