Daily Reporter staff reports

The early signing period for college basketball and all other sports opened last week, and several Hancock County student-athletes solidified their futures. During the next few editions, the Daily Reporter will publish the photos sent to our department celebrating these achievements.

Cougar makes it official, signs with Eastern Michigan

Greenfield-Central senior Rachel Irbe verbally committed to Eastern Michigan this past spring. Last week, she stood by decision, signing her official letter of intent to continue her volleyball career with the Eagles in the Mid-American Conference.

Story continues below gallery

Irbe will leave the Greenfield-Central volleyball program a career and single-season record holder, earning All-Hoosier Heritage Conference honors three times.

The 5-foot-10 outside hitter is a three-time All-Hancock County First Team selection and the 2013-14 Hancock County Player of the Year.

A National Honor Society member, Irbe fielded an offer from Northern Kentucky initially, followed by IPFW, West Florida, the University of Indianapolis and Eastern Michigan during her recruiting process.

With interests from more than 20 NCAA Division-I colleges and a plethora of Division-III and NAIA programs, Irbe chose Eastern Michigan and head coach Kimi Olson, a former standout at New Castle High School.

Along with Ariel Hamby (Oak Park, Illinois), Alysa Sutton (Gaston) and Riley Taylor (Indianapolis), Irbe is part of Olson’s inaugural recruiting class for the fall of 2016.

“We are proud to officially welcome these four ladies to the Eagle family,” remarked Olson. “Together they bring a tremendous level of passion and skill to this volleyball program. We are looking forward to seeing them in the Green and White.”

Opening her freshman year on varsity for the Cougars, Irbe broke through with 306 kills, 54 aces and 212 digs as a sophomore. As a junior, she toppled those numbers with 313 kills, 56 blocks and 306 digs.

This fall, she led the team with 422 kills, 74 aces and had 195 digs. The Cougars finished 21-12 on the season, falling in five sets to Mt. Vernon in the sectional finals.

Irbe’s father, Doug, an Avon graduate, was a rugby player at Ball State University. Her mother, Christine, a 1983 Greenfield-Central graduate, competed in three sports in high school: volleyball, basketball and track.

Christine was three-time state finalist in track and in basketball, she led the Cougars to two sectional titles and a regional while setting a school record for rebounds in a single game.

At Butler during the 1980s, she was a four-year letter-winner in volleyball, team captain (1987) and the team’s Most Valuable Player (1987). She became the all-time leader in solo blocks with 202 and set the single-season mark with 88. She is among the program’s career-best with 517 blocks.

Mt. Vernon standout inks with Lee University

Mt. Vernon cross-country and track standout Christian Noble cemented his future this month by signing with Lee University (Cleveland, Tennessee), where he intends to run for both programs, beginning next fall.

Noble considered numerous offers from every collegiate level before accepting an offer to run for the Flames.

In cross-country, Noble was a three-time All-Hoosier Heritage Conference selection, winning the conference race as a senior.

He also was a three-time sectional champion, three-time regional champion, a semistate champion last month, and three-time state qualifier.

As a senior, Christian set the regional course record at Delta, running a personal best and school record time of 14:55. Noble’s senior year also included a course record at the semistate, and a fourth-place finish at the state finals in Terre Haute.

After overcoming injuries his freshman and sophomore years, Noble’s first full season in track was a resounding success, as he was the conference, sectional, and regional champion in the 3,200-meter run and finishing seventh at the state finals during his junior season.

Noble broke the school record at the state finals, running the 3,200 in 9:14.78.

“My most memorable moment from my high school career was breaking the school record (cross-country), because my dad ran with Jeff Wheeler who held the record for 31 years,” said Noble. “To get it at the regional, where no one expected that to happen was extraordinary.”

Noble cited his father’s influence as a major impact in his running career, as he would often push him to work his hardest and understood the tribulations of being a runner. Christian also credited Mt. Vernon head coach Bruce Kendall.

“He puts in so much time for our team, doing more than probably any of us will ever know,” Noble said. “He is a great coach with a vast understanding of the sport.”

Noble chose Lee University over numerous other offers because of the opportunities it provided.

“A smaller university at the NCAA Division II level, Lee offers smaller class sizes on a Christian campus that will allow me to focus on my faith and academics while pursuing my athletic career,” Noble said.

The Flames are in their first year of competition in the Gulf South Conference, where the men’s cross-country team recently won the conference championship and finished second in the NCAA Divsion-II South Region Championship.

Making their Decision

The Future is Set

• Listing of local student-athletes who have signed their national letters of intent.

Eastern Hancock

Darby Shaw (softball): Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne

New Palestine

Brooke Butler (softball): Hanover College

Casey Lehman (softball): Huntington University

Issy Hoyt (softball): Purdue University

Jason Hall-Manley (baseball): Eastern Illinois University


Tate Hall (basketball): University of Indianapolis

Rachel Irbe (volleyball): Eastern Michigan

Darcie Huber (softball): Ball State University

Mt. Vernon

Sydney Shelton (basketball): Butler University

Christian Noble (cross country/track): Lee University

Ariana Sandefur (basketball): Indiana University Southeast

Noah Powell (baseball): St. Joseph’s College

Mary Grace Ertel (volleyball): University of Indianapolis