Kentucky Volleyball Inks Three in Fall Signing Period
University of Kentucky volleyball coach Jona Braden has signed three newcomers for the 2004 season as setter Ki Eveland, outside hitter Alex Montefalco and middle blocker Queen Nzenwa each have signed a national letter-of-intent with the Wildcats during the fall signing period.
"Each member of this signing class brings a unique blend of talent, heartfelt commitment on and off the court, along with an impacting competitive spirit,” Braden said. “Adding this group to the mix will continue to move this program forward."
Eveland (pictured at right), a 5-10 senior at East Kentwood High School in Grand Rapids, Mich., will continue a family tradition when she begins her collegiate athletic career. Evelend’s sister Kele is the setter for Georgia Tech, which has been ranked as high as fourth in the nation this year. In addition, sister Mya played volleyball at George Washington and sister Breanna is a track athlete at Kansas State. Ki’s father, Jack, played rugby at Central Michigan where her mother, Jay, was a volleyball player.
"Ki's approach to hard work makes me smile,” Braden commented. “The competitive focus and attention to detail continues to drive her performance to the next level. Leadership is the key to the setting position and Ki has shown that she is well-suited for this role. She is all about ‘team’ and welcomes the chance to tackle any challenge."
Eveland is preparing for her fourth and final year of varsity volleyball at East Kentwood, the same high school as UK All-American setter Jane Belanger (1990-93). She was named second-team all-state last season while helping the Falcons to a 62-14 record and averaging more than 10 assists per game.
Eveland, who plans to major in physical therapy at UK, was named all-district, all-conference and all-region as a junior last spring. She also was named most valuable player and captain of her high school team as a junior and earned academic all-state honors.
She also played basketball and ran track and cross country while in high school and has been on the honor roll all three years. Eveland spends her free time tutoring children as a Youth Service Organization volunteer.
Montefalco (left) is a senior at Cathedral High School in Indianapolis, Ind., and becomes the second-consecutive Indianapolis Star Player of the Year to join the Wildcats, following in the footsteps of UK freshman Melissa Popp. The 6-1 outside hitter also was named first-team all-city in November by the Star after guiding her team to the state championship this month. Montefalco tallied 12 kills, six digs and four blocks in the title match against Muncie Central and also was named to the Coaches’ all-state team.
"I welcome Alex's fierce competitive mindset,” Braden said. “She is the player who, by her presence, inspires those around her to keep fighting. She has a relentless ability to remain focused on the goal at hand by demonstrating, with an impeccable work ethic, what it takes to be successful."
This past summer, she earned All-America honors at the USA Volleyball Junior Olympic Nationals after leading her club team at Circle City to a fifth-place finish in the 17-under division. She was named honorable mention all-state in 2002 as well. In her four years of varsity volleyball, Montefalco appeared in the state finals three times.
Montefalco was coached at Cathedral by Jean Kesterson and played club volleyball at Circle City. She already holds strong ties to the Bluegrass state as her grandfather, Dr. Charles Pritchett, is a faculty member of the UK College of Dentistry. Montefalco plans to major in marketing and theater when she begins school in August. She is actively involved in the theater program at her high school and is the arts and entertainment editor of her high school paper.
After playing for the top-ranked team in the country as a freshman, Montefalco finished her career with a 138-19 record and holds the school record for most games played and won. Cathedral finished the 2003 season ranked third in the country.
The final member of the fall signing class is Queen Nzenwa (right), who came to the United States from Nigeria four years ago and currently resides in Baltimore, Md. Nzenwa was named most valuable player for her team at Kenwood High School as a senior. She was named all-county as both a junior and a senior and first-team all-metro this past fall.
"Queen has demonstrated in a very short amount of time the quality of athlete that she,” Braden said. “Her athleticism has allowed her to become one of the upcoming talents in the 2004 class. She embraces opportunities to grow her talent with much enthusiasm for learning. Her competitive spirit is so contagious and her desire to be the very best will catapult her capabilities to play this game at the highest level. She will add so much to our growing program."
This past season, Nzenwa totaled 103 blocks while hitting .410 in the middle. Her percentage ranked in the top five in Baltimore County this season. Her club team at Time Out Volleyball Club finished second in the nation in the silver bracket 17’s last year.
The three will join the team for training camp in early August.