Runnin' Bulldog volleyball lands 3

Nov. 27, 2012 @ 09:05 AM

The Gardner-Webb University volleyball team picked up three signees during the national signing period in November.

The Runnin' Bulldogs signed Taylor Lillard of Victorville, Calif., Emily Steele of Greenville, NC, and Brianna Starr of Blue Springs, Mo.

“We are delighted with the student-athletes who have committed to our 2013 class,” GWU head coach Leo Sayles said. “Their strengths will add to our size and give us much-needed depth at critical positions. All three are well-rounded players, capable of contributing in multiple positions.”

Lillard is a four-year varsity letter award winner. She is a four-time All-League selection and a three-time First-Team All-Area honoree. The two-time Team MVP and Hesperia Summer Tournament MVP was named to the All-CIF Team as a junior.

This season, the middle blocker has already led her Jackrabbits to the Desert Sky League title, as well as a top-10 ranking in the latest CIF-Southern Section polls.

Lillard, who is line for a number of postseason honors once more at the conclusion of this season, was also part of the Club Jo’s club teams that qualified at both the 17 and under and the 16 under age groups.

"Taylor is an exceptional athlete who has played all three positions across the front,” Sayles said. “Her versatility will allow her to fill a number of roles, adding depth to our hitting core."

Steele, a 6-2 middle and right-side hitter is a three-year letter award winner and two-time team captain who played in 209 matches while at Rose High School, posting a school-record 211 blocks over her three years on the varsity squad. Steele, who also registered 629 kills, 244 digs, 68 service aces and 17 assists for the Rampants in her career, was tabbed the Team MVP this season and was also named the WITN Player of the Week on Oct. 23.

The 2011 First-Team All-Conference selection led her team to an 18-4 overall record in her senior season in 2012.

As a sophomore, Steele, who led her team to become the 2012 Coastal Conference Champions, was named the J.H. Rose Rookie of the Year, selected to the Great 8 All-Tournament Team and was named as a 2010 Greater Greenville Sports Club Scholar Athlete of the Month.

Steele, who has also been a member of the East Carolina Junior Volleyball Club team for the last six years, is involved in a number of activities and groups off the court, such as the Link Crew, Anchor Club, Dream Team, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the Rose High School Swim Team and volunteers at the Rebuilding Pitt County, the local Homeless Shelter and Food Bank.

"Emily's combination of size and athleticism will help elevate our program,” Sayles said. “Her experience as both a middle and right side will help her settle in to a similar role here at GWU."

Starr, who is a multi-sport and letter winner during her time at Blue Springs, had a strong senior season in 2012 in which she was named to the All-State, All-Region, All-Conference and All-District Teams, and also earned a spot on the Under Armour All-American watch list. The senior team captain was also named to the Hardest Hitter list and earned a spot in the Missouri/Kansas All-Start game.

The four-time All-District and All-Conference volleyball selection is also a track & field standout, where she is also an All-State, All-District and All-Conference honoree and holds the Blue Springs High School record in the triple jump event.

Starr, who has also played for the Invasion Volleyball Club Team that has been consistently ranked nationally by for the last five years, was part of the team that won the USAV Nationals in the 15 Open Division and placed sixth at theUSAV Nationals four straight years.

Off the court, Starr is a member of the National Honor Society, the National Society of Academic Scholars and a four-time Honor Roll student.

"Bri is an outstanding athlete, and a highly skilled 6-rotation player,” Sayles said. “She comes from a strong winning tradition with her high school and club programs."

GWU will lose seniors Dominique Bray, Chelsea Hearne, Molly Rhyne and Carolina Solano to graduation. They will return 13, led by middle blocker Tyler Cockrell, outside hitter Erin Anderson, setter Heather Feldman and libero Anna Pashkova.


Gardner-Webb sports information contributed to this report