June 2, 2009
AUBURN - The Auburn volleyball team's 2009 recruiting class has been named the 26th-best in the nation by PrepVolleyball.com, according to its annual release last week. The nine-member class also ranks third in the Southeastern Conference.
The 2009 class is the first full recruiting class for second-year head coach Wade Benson and is the first Auburn class to be ranked in the Prep Volleyball Top-30 in at least seven years.
"This is a step in the right direction for Auburn volleyball," said Benson. "There was a lot of hard work by a lot of people to make this class happen and it may be the best class in Auburn's history."
The class is highlighted by four players ranked in the PrepVolleyball.com Top 250. All-American Katherine Culwell, a 6-0 outside hitter from Dallas, Texas, headlines the class as she entered her senior season ranked 34th in the country. Mackenzy Harper, a 6-0 outside hitter from Lebanon, Ohio, also made the PrepVolleyball.com Top-100 as she was ranked 91st.
Others making the Top-250 Senior Aces List were 5-10 setter/outside hitter Sarah Bullock (Allen, Texas) and 6-1 middle blocker Chloe Rowand (Spokane, Wash.).
Others in Auburn's recruiting class are 5-11 setter Kendall Burgess (Houston, Texas), 6-1 middle blocker Courtney McDonald (Palmetto, Fla.), 6-0 outside hitter Brittany Rhude (Spring, Texas) and 5-11 outside hitter Vesela Zapryanova (Bulgaria). However, Zapryanova is not included in the PrepVolleyball.com rankings as the site does not include international players.
Also planning to join the Tigers for 2009 is Mobile, Ala., native Morgan Johns, a 6-1 rightside hitter who is transferring to Auburn from Florida Atlantic.
"Depth, versatility and athleticism were the keys we were looking for in this class and it brings all three of those to the table," said Benson. "We also wanted a class with a winning background and each of them, whether in high school or club, comes from a winning, successful team."
The class is the first to be ranked in the PrepVolleyball.com rankings since at least 2003. The 2005 class earned high honorable mention honors from the Web site while last year's class earned honorable mention accolades.
Minnesota pulled in the top-ranked class in the nation, followed by Nebraska, Stanford, Penn State and Texas. Auburn was the third of three SEC teams to make the list with Kentucky leading the league at No. 13, followed by Ole Miss at No. 23.
The Tigers are slated to open the 2009 season at home with the War Eagle Invitational. Auburn opens with in-state rival Alabama-Birmingham at 7 p.m. on Aug. 28.