PREVIEW: Houston Volleyball Opens 2014 Season at Home
Aug. 27, 2014
HOUSTON - The University of Houston Volleyball program begins the 2014 campaign with a home tournament this weekend in the Athletics/Alumni Center.
Lamar, Texas State and Wake Forest will be in attendance for the two-day tournament beginning on Friday.
"The Houston Cougar Classic is in the third year of existence and is a tournament that has rotated host schools from Lamar to Texas State, and now to Houston," Head Coach Platt said. "We are excited about the opportunity to be home opening weekend and to host some great competition."
On Saturday, Houston Volleyball faces Texas State at 11 a.m. Following the match, Lamar and Wake Forest will take the court. To wrap up the first tournament of the season, the Cougars meet Wake Forest at 5 p.m.
A LOOK BACK AT 2013
Redshirt sophomore (now redshirt junior) Kadi Kullerkann earned second team All-American Athletic Conference honors. Last week, Kullerkann was named to The American preseason team.
During the 2013 season, the Cougars led the conference in service aces recording 175 (1.41 per set). Defense was key for the Houston Volleyball team as the Cougars allowed only 11.57 kills per set, the third lowest average behind Louisville and SMU.
Houston Volleyball started the season on a good note winning seven of the eight matches played in two tournaments. The Cougars were crowned champions at the Sawyer Camillo Memorial Tournament hosted by University of Louisiana-Lafayette, and junior libero Natalie Keck was named the tournament MVP Libero.
Houston Volleyball began the inaugural conference season with two road wins at Rutgers and UConn, followed by a third win hosting Cincinnati at home.
COUGARS RETURN 10
Keck kicks off her senior season after a stellar season in the back row. As the Cougars number one libero, Keck recorded 549 digs this season. Her total in one season is the fifth best by a Cougar and was the second most in the league. In 124 sets played, Keck averaged 4.43 digs per set, ranking 112th nationally and fourth in conference standings. She was awarded a spot on the conference weekly Honor Roll for a 41-dig performance in two matches and marked a season high 29 digs against Temple. Keck has recorded double figure digs in 23 straight matches to wrap up the season. She now has 1,452 total digs for her career, good for fifth in school history and second in digs per set (4.26).
Senior right side hitter Warren was another key to Houston's success last season. She officially joined the Cougars for her first season after sitting out a year due to NCAA transfer rules. Warren gave the Cougars a strong attack presence at the net as she put down 331 kills in 114 sets played and recorded 65 blocks (8-57) against opponents.
Kullerkann also returns this season, giving the Cougars a tough net presence. Last season, She was the Cougars most efficient hitter recording 309 kills, averaging 2.64 per set, with a .213 hitting average. Kullerkann was also a huge asset defensively at the net as she had 84.0 total blocks (6-78) on the year. The 6'-4" Estonian led the team with a season high 16 kills in three sets over UConn (Nov. 1) and recorded a career high 21 kills against Texas Southern (Sept. 3). Kullerkann recorded a hitting average of .300 or better in 13 matches this season and had four matches with .400 or better. She was selected to the TCU Nike/Molten Invitational All-Tournament Team in September and the American weekly Honor Roll twice this season.
During the summer, Kullerkann played with the Estonian National Team during several international tournaments.
Senior middle blocker Kaiti Waters started to shine in the second part of the 2013 season. In just 82 sets played, She recorded 103.0 blocks (8-95), averaging 1.26 per set. Waters had the second best blocking defense in the league. She was named to The American weekly Honor Roll for her 13-block showing at SMU. The mark is tied for second in school history in individual match records. Waters also contributed to the Cougar offense at the net. She marked a career high of 12 kills at UCF with a .500 hitting percentage.
Olivia O'Dell returns as one of the Cougars defensive specialists this season. Last season, O'Dell recorded 285 digs, averaging 2.32 digs per set. She is the Cougars top returning server as she recorded 24 of the teams 175 service aces.
Junior Destiny Patterson has learned to adapt to different roles each season as she switched to setter/defensive specialist last season. In 106 sets played, Patterson tallied 146 assists with a single-match high of 24 assists against Rutgers (Nov. 3).
SIX NEWCOMERS JOIN HOUSTON VOLLEYBALL
McCardell is a two-time All-District 22-4A Setter of the Year and First Team All-District and was also selected to the Greater Houston Volleyball Coaches Association North All-Star Team.
"Keke is a great athlete and playmaker. She creates opportunities for her team to compete with impressive defensive plays and good offensive decisions," Head Coach Platt said. "She has unlimited potential as a setter. She is quick, athletic, left-handed. She is great at running the middle and knows how to get her hitters involved. We are so excited about the immediate impact she will have on the program."
Chyla Thomas is a 6'-3", middle blocker transferring into Houston from San Jacinto College. She will add competitiveness high above the net to Houston's defensive and offensive systems.
"Chyla is a big presence at the net, touching 10'-3". She has a high contact point when attacking the ball and will be a dominant player on the court with a lot of hard work. We are excited about how big she can play," Platt said.
Madison Kucera is a 6'-1" outside hitter from Edna, Texas. She played volleyball, basketball and softball for Edna High School and was a member of the Tex Star Volleyball Club team.
Kucera is coming off an excellent senior season as she recorded 671 kills and a hitting percentage of .516, the sixth best percentage by an outside hitter in the nation. She hit .450 or better during her junior and senior seasons.
"Madison is a powerful attacker and has a strong blocking presence at the net," Coach Platt said. "She attended our summer camp last summer and we were sold with her work ethic, heavy arm, good jump, and her willingness to learn. We are excited about her potential and getting her focused on one sport."
Sarah Afflerbaugh is a 5A All-State outside hitter and was her club team captain and MVP. She helped Austin Westwood High School to a Bi-District Championship in 2011 and was named all-district Newcomer and All-CenTex Newcomer.
"Sarah comes from a highly competitive program and knows how to win. She is a solid six-rotation player with great shot selection. She will provide competitive-depth in the outside hitter position. We are excited to see her develop as she devotes her time to one sport."
Chenelle Walker is a 6'1" middle blocker that hails from Fort Myers, Fla., where she played for Riverdale High school.
The four-year volleyball letter winner was an all-state team selection, a three-time all-area selection and a two-time all-conference honoree. Most recently, Walker was named one of the Wendy's High School Heisman State Winners in 2013, which honors students that excel in academics, athletics, and leadership.
Walker helped the Florida International High Performance team to fourth place and ninth place finishes at the High Performance Championships in 2012 and 2011, respectively. In addition, she guided the USA South Volleyball Club team to a 2012 Tri-County Invite championship and Junior Olympic Qualifier in 2012 and 2013. Walker was also a National A2 Volleyball team invitee.
"Chenelle is a middle who works hard to close the block and really gets good blocking positioning. She has great lateral quickness and good blocking instincts touching 10'-2". We are excited about her work ethic and desire to be her best," Platt said.
Bryanna Lawrence is a 5'-8" outside hitter coming to Houston from Arlington, Texas, where she played varsity volleyball for Mansfield Timberview High School.
"Bryanna is very athletic. She is a dynamic, aggressive and a super-competitive player. Bryy is a solid six-rotation player. Her dynamic hitting gets the spotlight, but she has great passing and defensive skills as well. She has great energy on the court and will be fun to watch compete."
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