MUNCIE — Delta trailed Yorktown last season late in the third set. Chloe Stitt turned to her teammate, setter Abby Turner.
“Listen, we have to win this game, so set me,” Stitt told her.
So Turner obliged. Point after point, Stitt hammered home. It seemed unfair. Here was this 5-foot-9 outside hitter on fire, and there was nothing anyone could do about it.
Stitt’s eyes light up when she talks about it.
“It was a good game,” she says now, smiling.
The Eagles won the match over their rival that night. The only problem? It was just a junior varsity match.
The varsity match followed, and Stitt had to watch from the bench as Yorktown won in five sets. But the JV showing offered a glimpse of what was to come from Stitt.
The coach on the other sideline that evening, Yorktown JV coach Jeri Owens, had heard of the transfer from Madison-Grant who was relegated to JV because she hadn’t been cleared by the IHSAA. But it didn’t dawn on her that it was “Baby Chloe,” the daughter of one of her former co-workers at Daleville. Nicole Stitt used to teach science and coach at Daleville, where Owens has taught health for 16 years.
“I remember her as a baby,” Owens says. “I’m like, Oh my gosh, that’s Chloe? That was really cool for me to see. I remember her as an infant and it was neat to see just to see how much she had grown up.”
Owens was referring to physical growth, of course. Stitt’s growth last season as a varsity spectator, though, has helped mold her into one of the top players in East Central Indiana.
If there’s one thing Nicole Stitt learned from last season, it’s to have your child transfer before high school because the transfer process takes a toll on everyone involved: the family, the team and most of all, the player (who has to sit out one season unless cleared by the IHSAA).
When David and Nicole Stitt decided they wanted their four children to switch school districts, athletics was the furthest thing from their mind. Both parents graduated from Madison-Grant in 1995, and Chloe was on the Argylls’ varsity squad as a freshman when they made a run to the semistate.
The Stitts’ reasoning for transferring came down to academics, as decisions in their family usually do. Nicole taught at Ohio Northern University and now is the director of curriculum for Ivy Tech Community College. The most appealing part about Delta was that it offered her two youngest children opportunities for accelerated classes in elementary school, which they needed. And it allowed Chloe to take dual-credit classes in high school to earn college credit.
But the IHSAA didn’t see it that way. The case against the Stitts was that they were moving Chloe to Delta because she knew girls from her club team with Munciana. One of those girls was Gabby Zgunda, whose father coaches the Delta football team and also coached David Stitt in high school. The case against the Stitts was that this move was motivated by athletics, not academics, and that she was recruited to Delta.
“That didn’t happen at all,” Chloe says.
The Stitts didn’t move because they live on their farm, which has been in the family for as long as Chloe has been alive and is a source of income. Buying property just to get Chloe cleared wasn’t an option either.
“We were honest, we weren’t going to lie,” Nicole says. “There are some families that would buy a house in the district and say they are living in it, then not live in it and say that’s their address. But both my husband and I, as role models for our kids, you really shouldn’t lie to do that. We really believed in just being honest and letting whatever decision happen. I understand, though, why the rules are in place.”
The Stitts went through the appeals process all the way through the fall to get Chloe eligible for varsity action, finally giving up in October near the county tournament. When Delta lost to Yorktown in the county tournament, Chloe remembers sitting on the bench and crying after the final point. She thought about how she could’ve helped the Eagles and what difference she would have made.
On the surface, it seemed like a lost season for Stitt — but that’s not how she viewed it. She gained plenty.
Stitt actually didn’t have to play JV if she didn’t want to. But she did, and that meant something to her coaches and teammates.
“Having to play JV when you have varsity potential, a lot of girls wouldn’t do that,” Delta coach Heidi Zickgraf says. “In fact, I know of a couple that didn’t do that, that transferred and had JV eligibility. It says a lot for her as a person to go ahead and play JV because she knows that’s what’s going to be better for her and she knows that’s what’s going to be better for the program.
“A lot of people think they’re too good, and she’s not like that at all.”
Stitt learned about patience, she developed a more well-rounded game and she says she became more of a leader. It was a blessing to sit out, not a curse, Nicole says.
When Stitt was trying to become eligible, her teammates would excitedly ask her each day if she would be joining them. Though the answer was always, ‘No,’ Stitt felt welcomed.
This season, Stitt is showcasing her talent with a team-best 140 kills entering Saturday. And that’s given Delta (12-4), which is ranked third in Class 3A, another weapon alongside star outside hitter Audrey Woodin—as dynamic of a duo as any in the area.
“I was afraid of her (at first) because she was this big power hitter,” Stitt says. “Every time she gets a kill, I’m like, ‘Heck yeah!’ And when I get a kill, she goes, ‘Yeah Chloe!’
Her new home suits her well.
Contact sports features writer Ryan O’Gara at (765) 213-5829. Follow him on Twitter @RyanOGaraTSP .