Senior defensive specialist Lanni O’Reilly goes down for a dig in a recent game. Shane Maryott/UVU Review

Recruited by six other big-name schools, senior volleyball player Lanni O’Reilly could have easily ended up playing for cross-town rival BYU, but the girls on the team drew her to UVU.

“I knew that I wanted to come to Utah and it was between UVU and BYU. I think it was honestly after I met the girls on the team that I wanted to come here,” O’Reilly said.

Growing up with four older sisters who played volleyball, and one of them who played at BYU, O’Reilly wanted to follow in their footsteps. So at the age of 8, O’Reilly began playing club volleyball and has played since then.

O’Reilly began playing so young thanks to her father. “My dad started up a little club and it got popular and I was allowed at a young age to be on a team because my dad pulled some strings,” O’Reilly said.

When O’Reilly stepped on to the UVU volleyball court in 2007, she didn’t waste any time racking up the stats. Her freshman season saw her appear in 25 matches and average 1.20 digs per game.

During her sophomore and junior seasons, and now her final season, the numbers have kept rising and she has mastered the defensive specialist position.

“Lanni came in kind of playing in a defensive position that is sometimes, I think, very difficult to grasp because you’re not on the court a lot,” said Coach Sam Atoa. “I felt that as time went on, she kind of got better and better at it, and this year I felt that she’s embraced that role more so and has allowed her to be her best.”

As a sophomore, O’Reilly recorded 12 service aces and took that number even higher during her junior season finishing with 17. Going into last Saturday’s game at Chicago State, O’Reilly’s service aces stand at 21.

“If there’s a time when we really need some tough serving, she’s been able to provide that for us,” Atoa said. “That additional leadership and experience that she brings as a senior has really helped to keep us in games or has allowed us to finish games when we’ve needed that at certain times.”

Most athletes at the end of their collegiate career are sad to see it come to an end. O’Reilly, however, has a different view.

“It’s bittersweet,” O’Reilly said. “I’m excited for the championship tournament and I’m kind of excited for it to be over, but at the same time I know that I’m going to miss it like crazy.”

Following graduation in Exercise Science, within the next year, O’Reilly plans to start nursing school, and for the most part put volleyball aside, but says laughing, “I’m sure that me and the seniors can get together a killer intramural team and keep going.”