By Morgan Crump
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Ever since her first year playing volleyball in sixth grade, junior Aubree Piper has excelled at the sport she loves.
Piper attended Canyon Randall High School near Amarillo, where she received numerous awards for her outstanding volleyball skills. She was a four-year letter winner, received second team All-District accolades as a freshman, and was a first team All-District selection her sophomore, junior and senior years.
Piper said she was also a member of the AAU Young Guns, an independent volleyball team out of Amarillo.
When confronted with the issue of where to play college volleyball, Piper said her top choices were Texas Tech, Baylor, and New Mexico State.
"I always knew I wanted to play Big 12 volleyball," Piper said. "I chose Tech because it is close to home. It is really important that my family is able to come watch me play."
During her freshman season at Tech, Piper was an offensive threat on the court. She ranked third on the team in total kills and attempts, and appeared in 26 matches with 14 starts. Piper missed the first three matches of the season due to a pre-season leg injury.
Piper's statistics improved during her sophomore season, where she appeared in 24 matches with 19 starts. Piper finished the season with 144 kills, which was the most for any middle blocker and fourth for the team. Her hitting percentage for the season was .281, over .130 points higher than her freshman season. Piper missed eight matches due to illness that season as well.
Piper has encountered several injuries throughout her volleyball career at Texas Tech, but says she is currently well and hopes to stay that way.
"I had some back issues- a couple of bulging disks and a stress fracture in my back," Piper said. "I had to do a lot of rehab in order to become strong enough to play again, but I have recovered."
In her three years playing volleyball at Tech, Piper said she has grown both as a player and a leader.
"I try to lead by example on the court," Piper said, "and younger girls tell me they look up to me. I think that is awesome because that's the kind of person I want to be."
Piper said she always tries her hardest, giving it her all no matter what she is doing.
"I get super excited for every point. It doesn't matter if we earned the point or if the other team made a mistake," Piper said. "When I get pumped up, it gets everyone else motivated. I try to bring as much energy to the team as I can."
Head volleyball coach Don Flora said Piper is an awesome individual who loves Texas Tech and cares about living her life to the fullest.
"Aubree holds herself to a very high standard, and she is very aware of how much hard work it takes to become great," Flora said. "She works hard at everything she does."
Piper, one of three captains on this year's team, has been instrumental in the Red Raiders' success early on as she is second on the team in kills and first in total blocks. Her .333 hitting percentage also ranks among the top 10 in the Big 12 as well.
"She is very offensive-minded, and she sets expectations very high for her teammates," Flora said. "She's that person with a laugh and a smile at the right time, and she's very good at keeping the team together."
Flora said having Piper healthy this year has been especially beneficial for the team.
"Aubree has a great connection with our setter," he said. "Her offensive numbers have helped us tremendously in the preseason."
Piper's presence in the middle has boosted the competitive nature of the team, Flora said, and the support they all have for one another.
"We go about getting a little better every day, and I like that," he said. "I think this will go well with our development in the next phase of the season."
Piper said she thinks the team will be very successful this year if they play hard for the duration of every match. The Red Raiders enter this week 11-5 on the year heading into a Wednesday night match at TCU.
"I think we need to work on starting hard from the beginning of the game and getting ahead early," she said. "That way we don't have to play catch up."
Flora said he thinks the team needs to work on their ability to play at a high level for every point.
"We need to make our physical presence evident when we compete," he said. "We are improving the serving and blocking part of our game, and if we continue to do those things better, I think we will be tough in the Big 12."