Volleyball adds two key recruits
The transformation of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs volleyball program moved into phase 2 Monday when second-year coach Jessica Wood announced the addition of two key recruits during the early signing period.
The Mountain Lions, who improved to 15-14 this past season after posting a combined record of 9-49 the previous two years, signed Strasburg High School setter Jessica Stewart and Pueblo West High School hitter Marie Ottino to national letters of intent.
"These are two players we targeted early on as good fits for the development of our program," said Wood, who in her rookie season led the Mountain Lions to their first winning record since 2001. "Having these two commit during the early signing period is a huge step forward for our team."
The signings gave CU-Colorado Springs a jump start on assembling its second consecutive outstanding recruiting class. This past season, freshman Andrea Weedman was second on the Mountain Lions in kills and led the team in service aces and digs. Fellow freshmen Laura Meeter and Natalie Newberry keyed the defense, with Meeter third on the team in digs and Newberry fourth in digs and second in service aces.
"Last year's recruiting class speaks for itself," said Wood. "With this year's recruiting class we look to be able to build upon a very solid foundation."
Stewart was the setter on Strasburg's 2003 Colorado 3A state championship team, when she was named All-State and All-Tournament. This past season, she led her team in assists, was fourth in service aces and blocks and was fifth in digs.
"She is coming in as a freshman looking to learn from and prepare to replace our senior setter, Lindsay Hillegass," said Wood. "Strategy and movement come very naturally to her. That will place her a step ahead of most freshman setters."
One of six children, Stewart is also a tremendous student, which should make her a good fit in CU-Colorado Springs academics-first environment. She will graduate from high school this spring having already earned a college Associates Degree.
Ottino is the younger sister of CU-Colorado Springs middle blocker Caroline Ottino, who earned second-team All-Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference honors as a sophomore this past season. Marie Ottino was also a middle blocker in high school, but Wood recruited her as an outside hitter.
Ottino was named first-team All-South Central league the past two seasons. She was also named CCGS All-State and was the first alternate on the CHSAA All-State team. This past season, her Pueblo West team lost only one match.
A superb athlete, Ottino was also a three-year letterman and two-year starter on Pueblo West's basketball team and holds the school record in the 200-meter dash.
"I look for her to come in and develop as an outside hitter," said Wood. "She has all the athletic ability in the world, but she will need some time to adjust to a higher level of play and to a new position."
Although excited by the head start, Wood cautioned that there is still plenty of work to do this spring before the Mountain Lions will be ready for the 2005 season.
"We are still looking at a couple of prospects and we need to fill three more key spots," said Wood. "But this is a very good start."
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