Kentucky Volleyball Adds Three to 2004 Roster
The University of Kentucky volleyball program adds three new faces to its 2004 freshman class with the spring addition of middle blocker Kristen Cunningham and defensive specialists Katie Knytych and Kathleen Bowler.
“I am thrilled to add Kristen Cunningham, Kathleen Bowler and Katie Knytych to the 2004 class,” Head Coach Jona Braden said. “In the course of their athletic careers, they exude impeccable character, bring a fiery competitive spirit, execute sport from a tenacious mindset and exhibit a ‘never say die’ attitude.”
Cunningham (right), who stands at 6-1, hails from Fairfax Station, Va. A Robinson High School senior, she was named all-district and all-region last fall in just her second season of varsity volleyball action.
“Kristen’s level of performance is not common for having only played this game for two years,” Braden said. “Her athleticism allows her to grasp the concepts of the game, while her will to win, deep determination and drive to become the very best is what has carried her capabilities forward. There is no question that Kristen’s enthusiasm for everything will be contagious.”
The Rams won the 2002 Patriot District title and was runner-up in 2003 before taking the Northern Region Championship and finishing as state runners-up. Cunningham was given the Team Spirit Award and led the squad in blocks, both solo and assists.
Cunningham was a strong basketball player and swimmer during high school as well, before concentrating solely on volleyball as a junior. She was a four-year scholar athlete and is interested in majoring in marketing at Kentucky. She recently won the Virginia state title for Robinson’s acclaimed marketing program and will compete in the national championship in Nashville, Tenn., this weekend.
Cunningham becomes the first volleyball athlete from her high school to play NCAA Division I sports, but comes from a very athletic family. Her mother, Linda, was an All-American diver at the University of Texas, while her father, Rob, was a part of the Texas basketball team which claimed the 1978 NIT Championship. Cunningham’s grandfather, Bob, was captain and starting guard for the 1957 NCAA Champion North Carolina Tar Heels, while grandmother Minna Hamner is a former Olympic swimmer. Pete Hamner, Kristen’s uncle, was a pitcher for the New York Mets.
Knytych (left), a 5-5 defensive specialist and libero from LaGrange Park, Ill., is no stranger to college athletics as her sister, Julie, is the starting setter for the Tennessee Lady Vols. Knytych’s brother, Jim, is a baseball player at Butler University.
“Katie’s intensity and focus is what immediately catches your eye when you watch her play,” Braden said. “She takes care of business in the backcourt with a fearless, gutsy level of execution. Katie will add much to the defensive side of the game by demonstrating what it takes to stop the opponent’s offensive threats.”
Knytych played for Lyons Township High School, which claimed the varsity conference championship in 2002 and 2003. Knytych was an all-confernce academic honoree and a consistent honor roll member. She also played soccer and ran track while in high school and was a member of the GLC Select club team which placed 11th at the 2003 AAU Junior Nationals.
Bowler (right) is a 5-4 defensive specialist and libero from Naperville, Ill. The Naperville North High School senior was a two-time most valuable player for the Huskies while being named honorable mention for the Daily Herald All-Area team. Her varsity squad won the regional, sectional and super-sectional titles in 2004, while finishing fifth in the state.
Bowler also was a captain for the track team this past season and finished 15th in the state in the 4x400-meter relay. She was a teammate of Knytych’s at GLC Select Volleyball Club.
“Kathleen has a true sense of purpose when she is competing,” Braden said. “She is constantly striving to outwit her opponent by taking away options. Her speed is one of her obvious strengths, which allows her to not only take care of her area of responsibility but gives her an edge to expand her area of coverage with ease.”
The trio will join fall signees on campus in August for training camp.