Freshman sets UH up for success

Freshman setter Caitlin Ogletree is fourth in Conference USA in assists per set with 11.0. She has also won C-USA Setter of the Week four times this season. | Emily Chambers/The Daily Cougar

Caitlin Ogletree wasn’t especially interested in the University of Houston when she began mulling over choices for higher education.

Ogletree was coming off quite a successful high school volleyball career at Montgomery High School when offers started coming in from programs around the country.

During her high school career, she participated in the Junior Olympics three times, was awarded most valuable player in Montgomery County in 2009 and was named Setter of the Year as a senior.

By then, it was safe to say that her future was bright regardless of her school of choice.

“I had some other big schools looking at me. I was basically dragged here on my first visit,” Ogletree said. “I was deciding between TCU and Louisiana Tech at the time. I just wanted to be a part of not only a growing volleyball program, but a growing school in general.”

After a successful first year at the helm of the volleyball program, head coach Molly Alvey began her recruiting process for the 2011 year with the search for a new setter.

On the insistence of her mother, Ogletree visited the program late in the spring semester of her senior year.

“I had no intention of liking UH,” Ogletree said.

“When the new coaching staff came in, Molly, Nicole and Steve, they emailed me, and they watched me in the first week they came,” Ogletree said. “So my mom just said, ‘you know, Caitlin, there are new coaches, let’s just go and see what you do and don’t like.’”

The chance visit, however, would prove as valuable as any she had made throughout her decision process.

The Cougar volleyball program Ogletree experienced was a far cry from the down-and-out system that had produced a last-place finish only two years prior to her visit. Under Alvey’s direction, UH made significant strides in competitiveness during the 2010 season, and looked to continue building on the team’s third-place C-USA finish.

“As soon I saw her, I could sense that personality on the court,” Alvey said. “I saw that in her with her decision-making and the sets that she put up. I could definitely feel that attitude throughout the recruiting process.

“She’s a very mentally stable person. She isn’t easily fazed by competition, or distraction or adversity. She does a great job at keeping her composure — that’s why I wanted to recruit her.”

After briefly touring the University and being introduced to the program by the coaching staff, Ogletree’s options expanded with her increased interest in UH. Alvey’s clear fondness for the setter coupled with the University’s growing athletic respectability under Athletic Director Mack Rhoades contributed to the swift change of opinion by Ogletree.

With some thought, the finalists for college went from two to three.

“I just fell in love with the coaching staff,” Ogletree said. “What coach wanted from me was to bring intensity and competitiveness. What player wouldn’t love to hear that? ‘You can make a change, make a difference’. I love that she wanted me to come in and contribute right away.”

Ultimately, the lure of UH’s growing athletic and academic programs sealed the decision for Ogletree.

With only a single year as head coach, Alvey had turned Cougar volleyball around enough to convince the Montgomery native that UH had a strong future ahead of them in C-USA.

“Once I came here, I was like, wow,” Ogletree said. “I really liked TCU, but I didn’t click with the program at all. I wanted go to a program with a strong future, and this was just the right place for me.”

For Ogletree, UH fit well from the first match.

After briefly battling with transfer Chelsey Harding in the preseason, the freshman earned the starting nod from Alvey for UH’s opening tournament, the Flo Hyman Collegiate Cup.

Through the Cougars’ season-long battle for first place, Ogletree has earned C-USA Setter of the Week honors four times, and currently ranks fourth in assists per match (11.0) among C-USA setters.

The freshman has helped lead the Cougars to two five-plus match-winning streaks, and been integral to UH’s quest for a C-USA championship.

“She’s the type of player that you can really get after her, and give a lot of information to,” Alvey said. “I can critique and criticize and her, and it won’t faze her. For being a freshman, and the responsibilities we’ve put on her, she’s done a great job leading this team.

“I think she’s going to be a huge asset to this program in the long run.”

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