AUSTIN, Texas -- The University of Texas volleyball team's incoming freshman class of three standout prep stars has been ranked as the nation's No. 2 recruiting class, according to PrepVolleyball.com.
Texas head coach Jerritt Elliott and his staff will welcome three nationally-recognized players to the Longhorns program this fall: 6-3 setter and right side hitter Ashley Engle, 6-3 outside hitter Destinee Hooker and 5-9 defensive specialist Heather Kisner. Engle, from Yorba Linda, Calif. and Esperanza High School, is the third-ranked recruit nationally by PrepVolleyball.com. Hooker (San Antonio, Texas/Southwest HS) is the eighth-ranked recruit nationally, while Kisner, who hails from Sugar Land, Texas and Clements HS, is 54th.
In writing about the recruiting fortunes of Texas Volleyball, PrepVolleyball.com noted that "Though the Longhorns return every starter from 2005, that doesn't mean the three recruits coming to Austin won't contribute immediately to the program's fortunes. The three members of this class will be immediate impact players that will likely change the landscape for Texas Volleyball for the coming years. Engle is the most versatile player in this class and can change the rhythm of any match ... Hooker is a world-class athlete who leads the country in the high jump at 6-3 1/2 and touches 10-7. She had streaks of dominance in the spring and has a massive upside. Kisner is a fierce competitor with the ability to make her teammates better. Her willingness to sacrifice her body will allow her to be an impact player."
The Longhorns finished 24-5 last fall, placing second in the Big 12 Conference while earning an at-large berth to the 2005 NCAA Championship where the team fell in the second round to No. 7 Hawaii. UT ended the year with the No. 16 rank in the CSTV/AVCA Top 25 final poll.
Elliott, who is entering his sixth season at the helm of the UT volleyball program, welcomes back all but one player from last year's successful squad. Graduated senior walk-on Heather Schreiber played volleyball this past fall as a fifth-year senior after her All-Big 12 and All-America Honorable Mention career on the UT basketball court.
The Longhorns lineup, strong already, will be bolstered by this trio of newcomers.
The rookies join a talented roster which features a trio 2005 American Volleyball Coaches Association All-Americans in 6-1 rising junior middle blocker Leticia Armstrong (Elkhart, Ind.), 6-2 rising senior middle blocker Brandy Magee (Mission Viejo, Calif.) and 5-10 rising junior setter Michelle Moriarty from Houston. Armstrong earned Second Team honors, Magee was a Third Team selection and Moriarty gained Honorable Mention acclaim after each was selected First Team All-Big 12 and AVCA All-Central Region First Team as well. Those 2005 AVCA All-America honors marked the first time Texas had placed three on the All-America teams since 1995.
Penn State, which signed four players for 2006-07, had the top-ranked recruiting class in the PrepVolleyball.com ratings. Texas, California, Arizona and Notre Dame rounded out the top five. The next highest Big 12 Conference school in the recruiting class rankings were Nebraska (10th) and Texas A&M (11th).
Hooker has already burst onto the collegiate scene in her second of two sports at the Forty Acres-- track and field. Balancing volleyball winter training with competing on the track, Hooker emerged as one of the nation's top high jumpers when she entered UT early (in January of 2006) after completing her high school studies in December. Hooker was instrumental in helping the Longhorns track and field squad to the 2006 NCAA Indoor Championship where she placed third in the high jump in her first national meet. She then went on to claim the 2006 NCAA outdoor high jump crown in June, and then placed third in that event on June 24 at the AT&T USA Outdoor Championships in Indianapolis.
The Longhorns will open training camp in August in preparation for the start of the 2006 campaign. UT kicks off the season with an appearance at the prestigious AVCA College Volleyball Showcase which takes place at the University of Wisconsin in Madison on Friday and Saturday, Aug. 25-26.
Wisconsin faces the Longhorns in the opening round at the UW Field House on August 25, while defending NCAA champion Washington, 32-1 a year ago, takes on Ohio University in the other Friday match. Those winners will play for the tournament title on Aug. 26, while first-round losers will play in the third-place match earlier that day. In last year's final AVCA poll, Wisconsin (10th) and Ohio (14th) joined UT and Washington as two of the nation's top 16-ranked squads.