At 13 years old, Gabby Gonzales and Reilly MacNeill stood in a gym during their first club volleyball practice in Marietta, Georgia. They looked around to see if they knew anybody, but were too shy to talk to anyone.
The two went on to become friends whilst winning four state titles and a national championship. Both were recognized as Under Armour All-Americans.
They may not have intended to continue their playing career together, but now side-by-side in Columbus, Gonzales and MacNeill’s relationship has deepened as impact freshmen on the court at Ohio State.
“We never really planned for it to happen,” Gonzales said. “We came on some visits, then she committed and I was like, ‘Oh my God, we are going to be together for the next four years.’”
The two played their seventh- and eighth-grade seasons on the same club team and were soon recruited by Division I schools. The universities of Miami and Georgia brought them both in for visits. More offers started to flow as schools took notice of their talent.
In eighth grade, Gonzales’ family moved into a different school district, but that wouldn’t keep them apart for long. They played club together that offseason, and MacNeill’s family moved into the district for her freshman year of high school.
That same school year, Gonzales visited Ohio State and immediately committed. She knew from the start that Ohio State was the school for her.
“As soon as I came here and saw it, I didn’t want to talk to anyone else. This is my place. This is where I feel at home,” she said.
MacNeill kept her recruiting options open and was interested in a southern school that year. Less than a year later, she visited Ohio State.
“Once I seriously started talking to Ohio State, I knew it was the school for me,” she said.
Coach Geoff Carlston said the coaching staff didn’t originally plan to recruit both of them, and he built separate relationships with them during the recruiting process.
Carlston said that plan changed once he realized he had a shot at getting them both to travel up north to Columbus.
“The intent initially wasn’t to have them both come here,” he said. “Once we started to feel that they are very serious about Ohio State, in separate conversations, well you’re like, ‘Hey, we’d love to have you both.’”
Gonzales and MacNeill are both looking to make an immediate impact at Ohio State through the chemistry they’ve been developing for the past five years.
Gonzales, a 6-foot-3 outside hitter, is off to a strong start, ranking third on the team with 85 kills, and fourth with 93.5 points through the first 16 games of the season.
MacNeill, a 6-foot-2 middle blocker, has been out due to injury since her fifth set of the season.
“I think they are both going to have great careers,” Carlston said. “Gabby is starting now, and Reilly has already made a difference, and she’s getting better every day in the gym. I think they’re going to be huge impacts on our program.”