Stella Swenson is a high school freshman, but has been a varsity starting setter for three years. She averaged nine assists and two blocks per game playing for her mom, Vicki, at Hopkins (in suburban Minneapolis) as a 13-year-old seventh grader.
Last fall, her first at Wayzata, the freshman was named First Team All-State after leading the Trojans to a 13-0 record and No. 1 ranking in Class AAA in a season cut short by COVID-19.
“Stella has great control of the ball as a setter and plays with strength and composure well beyond her years,” Wayzata head coach Scott Jackson said. “Her decision-making this fall was outstanding. She is an incredible competitor and leader – always working to be her best and bring out the best in her teammates. She is an uncanny blocker as well, with great vision.”
Stella is intense, aggressive, assertive and not afraid to be great.
“At age 12, Stella told me at Minnesota Volleyball Camp that she was going to be better than Sam,” Vicki Swenson said. “That’s a pretty bold statement, but Stella backs it up with how hard she trains and competes.”
The “Sam” Stella was referring to is older sister Samantha Seliger-Swenson. Seliger-Swenson is in the news these days as a standout for the Athletes Unlimited pro league ongoing in Dallas. Seliger-Swenson’s list of accomplishments both in high school/cub and college at the University of Minnesota underscore just how ambitious Stella is:
*Three-time high school All-American
*Led Northern Lights to 17 Open national championship, where she was named MVP
*2014 Minnesota Miss Baden Award (best senior player in the state)
*2014 Minneapolis Star-Tribune Metro Player of the Year
*No. 8 recruit nationally in PrepVolleyball.com Senior Aces
*Four-time collegiate All-American, twice first team
*2018 Big Ten Player of the Year
*Finalist for the Honda Award as collegiate volleyball’s best player
There is chatter that Stella, who currently stands 6-2, is on track to be a top five recruit — perhaps even No. 1 — in the Class of 2024. Which begs the question: Can Stella match or surpass what Sam did, both during her high school/club days and beyond? To find out, we turned to those who know her best.
“I think Stella is more similar than not to my 15-year-old self,” Sam said. “We both grew up in the volleyball gym, so our court awareness and IQs help us play ahead of the game. She is great at reading and making plays, which is something I think I also did well at that age. She has the ability to read the play before it unfolds, which is a rare, but very important skill, to have in volleyball.
“Stella is more physical than I was at that age (and even now, since she’s a good 2-3 inches taller … it’s fine, I’m not bitter at all …). She is a solid block presence and can make plays offensively also.
“When it comes to her court presence, I would say we are very similar. She is very competitive and will do whatever it takes to win, which is something I have also carried with me since I started playing. I would say she’s maybe even more competitive!”
Vicki said that Sam, who is 5-11, was more of a pure setter at Stella’s age, but that Stella, who is taller and stronger, is the better blocker.
“Stella is similar to Sam with a high VB IQ and makes decisions beyond her age,” Vicki said.
Both are very competitive and want to win, but go about it in different ways.
“Sam has always been a quiet, calm leader, while Stella is vocal and plays with moxie,” Vicki said.
Can Stella one day be better than Sam? As hard as that is to conceive, given everything that Samantha Seliger-Swenson has accomplished, neither sis nor mom is saying “No.”
“I’m very excited to watch her play for the years to come and to see her develop more into the player she’s meant to be,” Sam said. “She has made the setter position her own and I know she will continue that in the future.”
Editor’s note: We want all our readers to become VolleyballMag.com Sustaining Members, but we understand if that’s not right for you. And if you’re here just to read John Tawa’s incredible and unparalleled coverage of national club and high school volleyball, you can contribute directly to him by using our Venmo account.
We suggest $12 for Tawa — Give Twelve for Tawa! — but you can give any amount you choose. No amount is too small, and we know that John thinks no amount is too large! When you contribute, just put in the Venmo description “Tawa.” Thanks on behalf of all us at VolleyballMag.com. Our Venmo account is VolleyballMag.