BATON ROUGE, La. – The LSU volleyball team will welcome three new members to the squad in 2014 as the program has received commitments from Kelly Esch, Toni Rodriguez and Cheyenne Wood to continue their careers as Tigers next fall.
Esch, a 6-1 opposite/outside hitter from Williamsburg, Virginia and member of the Williamsburg Volleyball Club, is the record holder for career kills with 1,048 at Jamestown High School, where she was the conference and regional player of the year after leading her team to a 31-1 overall record in the 2013 season and the team’s second trip in three seasons to the state finals. Under head coach Tom Stephenson, Esch has been a four-time all-district selection and three-time region and all-state pick, while also being a member of the National Honor Society and chair of a blood drive in association with the American Red Cross.
“Kelly is one of those special players who makes everyone around her better,” head volleyball coach Fran Flory said. “She is a very balanced physical athlete who can play multiple positions. She is super competitive and is simply a winner. We are excited that Kelly will join our program, and she will make a significant contribution on and off the court in many different ways.”
A three-sport athlete from nearby St. Amant, Rodriguez averaged 22 kills, 15 digs and six blocks per set before suffering an injury early in her final high school campaign last year. Nearly doubling her kill total every season since her freshman year under head coach Allison Leake, Rodriguez received many honors over the course of her young career, as during her high school tenure she was named the Baton Rouge player of the year by the Times-Picayune, athlete of the year and metro most valuable player by The Advocate, among being a two-time all-state, three-time all-district and four-time all-metro pick. In 2013 she was an academic all-state honoree and maintained a 3.5 grade point average, also continuing her club career with Louisiana Volleyball.
“We are thrilled and excited to add Toni to our roster,” Flory said. “She is a dynamic athlete with great size. We are very confident that she will recover from her knee injury and be an impactful player in our program. We plan to red-shirt her for this upcoming season to allow her to completely heal and train. She is a special player and person and she is a great addition to our program.”
Wood will come in after being a proven winner in the high school ranks and club ranks with the Triangle Volleyball Club, leading a Cardinal Gibbons team that lost just two games in two years in winning a state title every season she was a member. Leading Logan Barber’s team for the last two seasons has resulted in her squad being ranked seventh in the nation by MaxPreps, while being named the most valuable player in the state championship game for her 27-0 group that won 84 of a possible 87 sets. She accumulated 345 assists, 147 kills and 127 digs as the senior captain, following up a junior captaincy campaign that saw her team go 21-2 in another state championship push. The North Carolina native was a member of the National Honor Society, as well as various other clubs and organizations.
“Cheyenne is the first dual surface, both indoor and sand, student-athletes that we have recruited to join our program,” Flory said. “She will be an integral part of both programs. Her ball control skills will provide her an opportunity to compete in the gym, and her experience in the sand game will allow her the opportunity to be an important part of our sand roster. She will be a great addition to both of our programs.”
LSU has earned 190 victories sparked by five 20-win seasons to go along with seven SEC Western Division titles since 2005. The Tigers also are one of 29 programs to appear in at least seven NCAA Tournaments during the past nine seasons.