Dec. 5, 2008
AUBURN - The Auburn volleyball team received commitments from six players during the early signing period for its 2009 class, head coach Wade Benson announced Friday. Kendall Burgess, Brittney Rhude, Katherine Culwell, Sara Bullock, MacKenzy Harper and Courtney McDonald will join the Tigers for the 2009 season.
The class includes three players ranked in the top 150 in the nation by PrepVolleyball.com. Culwell comes in ranked 34th in the country and Harper ranked 91st while Bullock comes in just outside the top 100.
"We signed all of our recruits and we are excited about the future," said head coach Wade Benson. "We are bringing in players that can help us in every position on the court and will add a lot of depth to what could be a very talented team next season."
Burgess is a 5-10 setter and Rhude is a 6-0 outside hitter, both are teammates on Houston's Asics Willowbrook club team. While at Second Baptist High School in Houston, Burgess was a three-time first team All-State selection, three-time All-State Tournament honoree as well as being named to the All-District first team all four years. A team captain and former team offensive MVP, Burgess helped her team to a Texas 5A state championship during her junior season.
"Kendall Burgess is hopefully going to be the future of our setting here at Auburn," said Benson. "She is under the radar, in my opinion, and is high-level kid. We are very excited to be able to get a 5-10, solid location setter who played in a high club program. She has great character and competitiveness, and we are looking forward to getting her on campus."
Coming off her senior season at The Woodlands High School in The Woodlands, Texas, Rhude played her sophomore season in The Netherlands at the American School of The Hague, competing against schools from Frankfurt, Germany to Cairo, Egypt. She was an all-tournament selection while in Europe and was named to the International Schools All-Volleyball Team. As a senior, Rhude helped lead TWHS to a 31-5 record and a district championship.
"Brittany Rude is a high-level Division I athlete who is working on her experience and tools of the trade," said Benson. "She is going to be a serious, wild player in hitting warm-ups. Her development in her first two years will be very important for her to reach her peak."
Culwell, captain and four-year letterwinner for the Highland Park High School volleyball team of Dallas, Texas, is a 6-0 outside hitter from the top-ranked Dallas Skyline club. Culwell was selected to the All-Tournament Team at the 2007 and 2008 U.S. Junior Olympic Volleyball Championships and named to six all-tournament teams over the course of her prep and junior career. Taking bronze in the triple jump at the 2007 Texas UIL Track and Field Finals, Culwell was named to the 2007 Texas All-State track Team.
"Katherine Culwell is probably the best recruit ever here at Auburn," said Benson. "She is in the top 30 recruits in the country and I think she is better than when Prep Volleyball did their last rankings. She is a high flying, left side hitter that plays on one of the top high school teams in the country."
Also from Dallas Skyline is Bullock, at 5-10 she is a versatile player who can set up at outside hitter or move in as a setter. Bullock was named to the 2007 Dallas-Fort Worth All-Area team after accumulating From 363 kills, 513 assists, 303 digs 75 aces in her junior year at Allen High School in Allen, Texas. Bullock also competed in the high jump for AHS.
"Sara Bullock is a really interesting player," said Benson. "She is a winner, she is a player that we will possibly change to be a setter for us, but also can hit right side. She has a great attitude; the type of attitude we are looking for in our future here at Auburn."
From Lebanon, Ohio comes Harper, a Division I third-team all-state selection last season. Harper, the Greater Western Ohio Conference-South Division Player the Year the past two seasons, had 209 kills, 44 aces and 245 digs in 2007. As outside hitter at 6-1, Harper was named most valuable player on her Lebanon High School for her freshman and sophomore seasons and scholar athlete all four years. In eight years of club competition, Harper's teams have made it to the Junior Olympics or the JVDA Championships in every season.
"MacKenzy Harper is another high level, top-100 recruit," said Benson. "She plays on a fabulous club team, Team Z, one of the top club teams in the country. She plays middle hitter for them now, but she will probably hit left or right side for us."
McDonald, a 6-0 middle blocker from Manatee High School in Bradenton, Fla., has been the captain of her high school varsity squad all four years of competition and voted MVP her sophomore and junior seasons. As a junior, McDonald was voted Manatee County Athlete of the Year and as a member of the Tampa Bay Juniors volleyball club, McDonald led her under-17 team to the US Junior Olympic Volleyball Championship in 2007.
"Courtney McDonald is a great athlete," said Benson. "She is a 6-0 middle hitter, is super fast and she was a high jumper in track. She will be heard of down the line, but she is a little bit raw right now. We were very impressed with her speed and athleticism."
The Auburn volleyball team capped off its 2008 season last weekend, finishing the year with a 6-25 record, 1-19 in SEC play. The season was Benson's first as Auburn's head coach.