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Tuesday, October 3, 2023


Three Cougars take long road to UH

A cursory glance over the roster for the volleyball team shows the names of cities and towns that are familiar to our collective minds: Houston, Louisville, Los Angeles and more. A longer-than-brief glimpse, however, will show a trio of locations that wouldn’t have been at the tip anyone’s tongue.

Victoria, Australia. Tyrol, Austria. Keila, Estonia.

Sophomore outside hitter Kadi Kullerkann, an Australian native, ranks third for the Cougars with 279 kills on the season. | Caitlin Hilton/The Daily Cougar

UH has pulled three players from across the globe who have made a positive impact on the season so far — freshman outside hitter Stephanie Daxboeck of Austria, sophomore setter Sophia Paine from Australia and redshirt sophomore Kadi Kullerkann, an outside hitter from Estonia.

Recruiting videos are the normal procedure for bringing in foreign players, the three players along with head coach Kaddie Platt said.

“We have recruiting services that help us out with that,” Platt said. “They sort through the film and all that good stuff, and then they get it all to us, and we evaluate from there.”

All three players recalled the same experience of putting together their audition film before sending it out.

“I emailed a lot of coaches with my practice videos, and I asked them if they had a full scholarship to offer me,” Kullerkann said. “I got tons of feedback and I started talking to different coaches until I got to my official visits. Then I chose Houston.”

Both Paine and Daxboeck followed similar paths.

“Where I came from, volleyball is not that big,” Daxboeck said. “Here I really get the chance to play on a higher level. I met a German woman who also played in the United States and studied here, so I contacted her, and she has a little agency, and she created a profile of me so I could put up videos and stats.”

Paine, who ended up at UH through previous connections with an alumna, was recruited through a self-described filter.

“I had a coach that was an (alumna) of the University of Houston; she’s Australian and came over here in the ’80s. She knew I wanted to come to college in the U.S., so I started the process of sending out mass emails to colleges all over the state,” Paine said. “When I got replies, I had a recruitment video put together, and that was sent to all the schools that I got replies from, and I filtered it down to the schools that were really interested, and I just kept a dialogue going. UH was the one school that committed to me, and so I Skyped with the coaches a couple of times. We just committed to each other, then they sent me a big bunch of papers to sign.”

The three all voiced amused thoughts about the Houston heat and the differences in size compared to their home countries. Kullerkann noted that the Bayou City has a larger population than her homeland of Estonia, while Daxboeck and Paine pointed out that the sometimes-confusing nature of English slang can be a bit much.

Kullerkann, to her credit, has her eyes on more than just volleyball glory. She told recruiters her goals went beyond on-the-court accomplishments.

“It’s very much half-and-half, both volleyball and academics. I’m trying to graduate cum laude right now, and I think I’m doing a really good job,” Kulkerkann said.

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