CARROLLTON, Ga. - The 2017 version of Wolves' Volleyball will be a talented, although very young group, but head coach Trina Braden has high praise for her team as they head into the season opener on Friday in St. Petersburg. Today, uwgsports.com takes a look at the middle blockers for the coming season on the court for the Wolves.
The group includes five players listed as either a middle blocker or an outside hitter on the 2017 roster, with four of the five stepping onto a collegiate court for the first time on Friday morning. The lone exception in that group is Autumn Burnette, who was one of the top newcomers for the Wolves in 2016.
Burnette came in as a walk-on, but her athleticism and hard-hitting earned her a spot in the starting rotation quickly during the year. She ended the season as one of the top hitters on the team, playing both as an outside hitter and a middle blocker for much of the year. With a plethora of talent on the outside, Braden will look to Burnette for leadership on the interior early in the 2017 season as the freshmen adjust to the speed and power of the college game.
Freshman Aisha Ambrose comes to UWG from Peachtree Ridge in Gwinnett County, where she led PRHC to 17 wins in her senior season last year. Ambrose had a hitting percentage of .302 in two years as a starter for Peachtree Ridge, collecting 137 kills in 104 sets played. That includes a whopping 92 kills in 51 sets as as senior in 2016. She also had 80 blocks in that two-year run, including 58 solo blocks. She was named Second Team All-County for her efforts as a senior.
Another freshman, Niah Bruce, comes to UWG from state runner-up Lassiter High School. Bruce was an honorable mention selection to the All-County team this season as she helped lead Lassiter to a state championship appearance. She was the leading blocker in her area tallying 179 career kills and 155 career blocks. A three-year performer for the Trojans, she averaged nearly a block per set through her high school career.
Anna Grace Guinn (Graci) is a third freshman who could see time in the middle after a solid career at Walnut Grove High School. As a senior, Guinn played outside hitter, right side, and middle blocker, helping lead WGHS to a trip to the state quarterfinals and 27 victories. She was named Honorable Mention All-State following her senior season by the Georgia Volleyball Coaches Association.
The final freshman middle in this year's class is Madeline Rexrode, who comes to UWG after a standout career at Harris County High School in Columbus, Ga. She joins Madi Fleming and Faith Pearson as Columbus natives on this year's squad, while she and Pearson both attended Harris County. Rexrode had 191 kills last season at a .388 clip, tallying 131 blocks in leading her squad to 40 victories as a senior.
The Wolves will open the 2017 season at the Eckerd College Invitational on Friday at 12:30 p.m. in St. Petersburg, Fla.