Snouffer and Willow Sisters make an impact as dual-sport athletes
by Abigail Hintz
When high school sophomore Lauren Willow jumped up and kicked a volleyball off the backboard of the basketball hoop, she had no idea it would be the start of something special at the University of Cedarville in the years to come.
The high school track coach heard about it and came to her lunch table to ask if she would be willing to try track and field, specifically the high jump. A committed volleyball player, she was skeptical at first. But she soon returned.
“I went to the first meeting and fell in love,” she said.
The story was similar for her younger sister, Hannah Willow, but was easier to understand because she saw her sister do it successfully first. And luckily for her, Lauren paved the way for both sisters to do something never done before at Cedarville University – a school where they could grow in their faith, athletics, and academics.
Just an hour south of their hometown of Arlington, Ohio in the small Delaware town, Lyssi Snouffer had no idea that Lauren’s success on the track was setting her up to have the same at the level. college a few years later. At the time, Snouffer wasn’t even involved with the track. His school was too small to have a team.
Now all three compete in volleyball and track at the college and university level as full-time students.
None of the three girls think much about why they are willing to do what they do. They simply do. They all ended up coming to Cedarville to pursue their love of volleyball, but for such talented athletes, it didn’t take much to get them excited about adding a track to the mix.
Growing up in a Christian school, Snouffer knew she wanted to attend a Christian college to further her athletic and academic career. Not only did Snouffer have her pick of schools, she had her pick of sports.
Snouffer had successful high school careers in volleyball, track and field, and basketball. She has amassed 1,548 wins in her volleyball career and 1,843 points with 1,352 rebounds in her basketball career. In track, in which she competed at a local public high school, Snouffer placed third in the long jump at the state meet in 2017 and 2019 and second in the long jump in 2018 and 2019.
She grew up being involved in as many sports as she could. Her parents own a recreational gym, so from a young age, Snouffer played as much as she could. However, she says volleyball has always been different from others.
“Volleyball just stole my little heart,” she said.
Cedarville had always been on the horizon for Snouffer, and when she had the opportunity to meet head volleyball coach Greg Smith, it sealed the deal for her. Then she discovered that she might have the ability to continue jumping as well, which further solidified her decision.
For Lauren, the opportunity to compete in track and field volleyball came with some added hurdles as she was the first in school history to try it.
“I was ready to say goodbye to athletics in high school,” she said, as she was completely devoted to volleyball. She had committed to Cedarville before she knew the track would be a possibility.
Once both coaches realized it could work, they were flexible and helped Lauren reach her full potential while maintaining a relatively balanced schedule.
Lauren, a senior, feels the weight of life as a dual-sport athlete. She is a full-time student and actively involved in both sports as volleyball was pushed back to the spring due to COVID-19.
“It’s a lot and very overwhelming,” she admits.
But it’s worth it.
“Without having had the opportunity to practice both sports, these relationships would not have been formed,” she says of all the people she has had the opportunity to meet during her sports career.
Hannah echoes her sister’s sentiment. The relationships they manage to build through both sporting avenues are what make up for the chaos that comes with being a dual-sport athlete and a full-time student.
For her, academics involve even more structure and discipline. Hannah is a major nurse and must rely on the Lord week in and week out to find the time to keep up with her studies and succeed on the field and on the track.
Snouffer still has the hang of it. Just a freshman, this year has been a year of immense adjustments and uncertainties. Although the pandemic played a role in this, Snouffer had her own struggles overcoming entering her freshman year of school.
During her freshman year of high school, when she placed second in state track and field competition, she did so despite a nagging foot injury. His senior year would have been redemptive, until COVID caused the entire season to be canceled. It ended up being a blessing for Snouffer, as it gave her more time to heal, not only from the foot injury, but also from a concussion she suffered the summer before coming to Cedarville.
“Coming back, I was very anxious to say the least,” she said. “From an academic point of view and also from a performance point of view, on and off the pitch.”
She was medically cleared to start volleyball in time, but when the pandemic rolled back the season in the spring, it was a relief for Snouffer.
“It was definitely a blessing in disguise,” she said. “Trusting his timing was certainly taxing, but something I’m very grateful for, to have learned and continue to learn every day.”
The girls’ first track encounter was unforgettable. But even though it was their first competition as teammates, it wasn’t their first together.
The Willows first met Snouffer when Lauren was a senior in high school and Hannah was a sophomore at the state track meet where they would compete in the high jump. Lauren describes track as a sport where it’s easy to go and talk to opponents, so that’s exactly what she did with Snouffer.
“We started talking and she went over there and beat us all up,” Lauren laughed.
At the state meet of Hannah’s senior year and Snouffer’s junior year, the two were talking and connecting the dots that the two were committed to Cedarville for volleyball. Hannah realized that track and field head coach Jeff Bolender was meeting and told Snouffer that she had to go talk to him even though pursuing her track and field career wasn’t something she cared about. thought a lot.
By the time Snouffer arrived in Cedarville, the Willow sisters had already paved the way for her to easily compete in volleyball and track and field.
“If the Lord gives me an opportunity, I’m more than willing, and how He opened the door for me to do both here was something really special,” Snouffer said.
“We love competing with Lyssi,” said Hannah, who was incredibly excited to know they would be teammates on two separate teams.
“This year, we’re like sisters in a way,” Lauren says of the three of them.
Lauren and Snouffer say they push and encourage each other on and off the court.
“It’s just an explosion,” Snouffer said.
It’s important that they have that support system this year. With both sports happening at the same time and such a huge gap between the last two seasons, coming back to it can be daunting. Especially for Snouffer, who was entering his first season in college athletics after such a long hiatus.
“It had been over a year and a half since I had competed, so I was very, very grateful to be jumping. I can’t wait to see how far I can go,” she said.
And high she went. In her first varsity competition and after everything she had endured since the last competition, the rookie won the high jump with a height of 5’7.75” which broke a 33-year-old school record.
“I have no words,” she said in response to her success.
Lauren said meeting Snouffer for the first time was “a moment to remember”.
Snouffer and the willows continue to use their gifts for the glory of the Lord as their seasons progress. Lauren led the volleyball team to success this season with 123 kills and a high .420 hit percentage and will continue to do so as they work their way into the G-MAC Tournament early in the season. March. Both Hannah and Snouffer have contributed 50 kills this season.
Along with Snouffer’s success, the Willows have also had strong performances in the high jump so far. Hannah has finished in the top 10 in all three competitions this season, including the G-MAC Indoor Championships, while Lauren has finished in the top five in every competition.
The three are now focused on finishing their volleyball season strong as they push for a G-MAC Tournament championship before returning to track mode for the outdoor season.
Abigail Hintz is a junior journalism student and sports and digital writer for Cedars. She loves to read, play Spikeball with her friends and watch football 24/7.