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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Sports

Junior returns to Houston for reasons bigger than volleyball


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Since transferring from Wake Forest University, Lynch has become one of the Cougars’ top players. | Justin Cross/The Cougar

It takes an out-of-state trip for members of the Cougar volleyball team to realize what they were looking for has been home the entire time.

For junior outside hitter Brianna Lynch, the decision came down to what her heart wanted. After two successful seasons at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where she started 19 matches for the Demon Deacons, the Richmond, Texas native felt it was time to come home.

“I was missing home,” Lynch said. “I wanted to see my little brother grow up and I felt like Houston was where I needed to be and where I fit in.”

The right decision

It wasn’t until Lynch was in middle school that she discovered volleyball, but she quickly fell in love and decided to pursue it instead of basketball. She found success while at Travis High School, lettering every year while being named All-District First team twice and team MVP three times.

Lynch thought leaving home would be the best choice when choosing a college. She decided to go for more than 1,100 miles away to Wake Forest.

“As a young athlete, I assumed I wanted to get out of the state,” Lynch said. “I’ve always been in Texas, so even though I love Texas it took going out and experiencing something different to tell me home is where I need to be.”

While in North Carolina, Lynch realized that her heart was calling out to her again. After playing two seasons for the Demon Deacons, she felt that Houston was pulling her back.

The process of transferring can be difficult for all students, let alone student-athletes who have that extra wrinkle added in. Telling her former coach that she wanted to leave didn’t come easy for Lynch.

“After the last game against UNC, I pulled him aside the next day and we had a sit-down talk,” Lynch said. “It was really heart-to-heart and was a hard decision, but I told him that this isn’t where my heart is and I want to come home.”

Normally when transferring, the process of recruitment to the new school goes through a third-party as the NCAA prohibits coaches from talking to athletes at their schools. This situation was different.

Eventually, Wake Forest’s head coach, Ken Murczek, worked it out with Cougar head coach, Kaddie Platt.

“In her situation, it was Wake Forest who called us because she wanted to come home,” Platt said. “We have a relationship with that coach up there, and Ken (Murczek) and I talked and he told me about her strengths and that she wanted to be back home and closer to her family.”

Genuine game changer

Lynch has thrived since coming to Houston, leading the team in kills while appearing in all 20 matches this season.

Totaling 196 kills in 75 sets, the junior provides an offensive spark for the Cougars while bringing an inspiring presence to a team that features 14 total underclassmen with nine freshmen.

“A great team player and has a calmness on the court that’s needed with so many freshmen,” Platt said. “In a really balanced offense, she’s going to be really lethal. When we have to give her so many balls, it’s a little harder for her to terminate as much and her efficiency will go up as we get better people around her.”

This season hasn’t gone the way the Cougars hoped, though, as they are 5-15 overall and have yet to win a match in American Athletic Conference play.

Lynch knows that what’s important to building a lasting program, despite the record, is building a culture and instilling a strong work ethic in the underclassmen.

“We work hard every day building relationships here, so it’s all about the culture,” Lynch said.

Whether it be in volleyball or in her life afterward, Lynch trusts her heart to lead her in the right direction, as it has so far.

Lynch, a human resources major, hopes to go to grad school and work overseas. No matter what she does, however, she wants to make an impact.

“Every day, I just hope that I make a difference,” Lynch said. “Whether it’s one point, blocking, getting one more kill or one more dig, or improving my teammates. That’s my dream, my goal every day is to make a difference.”

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