The University of Iowa has been Bailey Ortega's dream school. She went to Hawkeye volleyball games in Iowa City as a young child, would bring home posters and hang them on her bedroom wall.
So when Iowa reached out to the Davenport North junior a few weeks ago about a preferred walk-on opportunity with the program, Ortega could not resist.
The 5-foot-10 setter committed Sunday to join the Hawkeyes in the fall of 2020. Her brother, Blain, is in medical school at the university.
"Going through the whole process, there were coaches that told me they didn't see me playing at the Division I level," Ortega said, "but my parents and brother have helped me a lot.
"Just the crazy and endless hours in the gym and dragging my mom to North to unlock the gym for me, it is the best feeling and so relieving. It turned out right."
After two years with Iowa Select, Ortega is playing for Eastern Iowa Extreme this club season out of Mount Vernon.
Ortega said her high school and club teammates have continued to push her.
"When you're in club volleyball with a lot of teenage girls, there is going to be a ton of drama and talk you're not good enough, but my teammates have been great," she said. "Even on days when I don't want to go to the gym, they've kept my motivation at an all-time high."
Ortega said she had a few offers before Iowa jumped into the mix. A three-year varsity contributor, Ortega attended a clinic at Iowa this past winter.
Through the help of recruiting coordinator, Lauren Hansen, the Iowa coaching staff started watching Ortega at several club tournaments.
"Iowa, by far, was the biggest school to contact me," Ortega said. "I wanted to reach as high a level as I could and improve my game there. When this opportunity popped up, I knew it wouldn't last long."
Ortega, who has accumulated more than 1,000 assists at North, started setting about four years ago. Frank Flanagan and Nick Lynch have worked with Ortega extensively to develop her skills.
The first two phone calls Ortega made following her commitment were to Flanagan and Lynch.
"I owe a lot to them," she said. "Frank was really the first one to believe in me, and I've continued to develop with Nick."
Ortega averaged 7.59 assists per set last fall for North, which was 9-20 in coach Heath Donath's first season. Ortega said excitement is building this offseason.
The Wildcats have a strong nucleus with Ortega and Tulsa commit Justyus Jackson.
"North volleyball has been underestimated, but the girls have the grit and want it so bad," Ortega said. "We're all so motivated to go after it."