Cassie Kuerschen set a goal of playing college volleyball years ago, and she’s well on her way to achieving it.
The sophomore libero at Catholic High School already has scholarship offers from Tennessee and Virginia – with prime recruiting season yet to come for the 2021 class of volleyball players.
“She’s definitely one of the top libero prospects in the country for her age group, so honestly the sky’s the limit,” Catholic coach Brent Carter said. “This coming year, that’s when scouts are just all over the place. She’s going to have more schools to look at than she can imagine.”
Kuerschen may face some a tough decision. She got the scholarship offer from first-year Tennessee coach Eve Rackham in January. Virginia coach Aaron Smith made an offer earlier this summer.
Rackham made a strong impression. UT is at the top of Kuerschen’s list.
“She is amazing,” Kuerschen said. “She is unbelievable, and the changes she’s making in that program, it’s on the rise. If I was ever to be a part of that program, it would be unbelievable.”
Rackham inherited a roster with Knoxville-area ties and appears set to continue recruiting locally. Tennessee sophomore Madison Coulter of Maryville High School and freshman Lily Felts of Berean Christian School were recruited by Rackham’s predecessor, Rob Patrick, as were Heritage senior Kailey Keeble and Maryville junior Meg Mersman, both still committed to the Lady Vols.
Kuerschen knows most of them well from practices at Knoxville’s K2 Volleyball.
“Every day in practice we’re going against each other at K2,” she said.
Kuerschen spent years putting herself in position to play elite-level college volleyball. She found motivation at a young age from her parents, Ted and Kathy, and her three older brothers.
Her parents met at Karns High School, where Ted played football and Kathy played volleyball, and they both went to college at Tennessee.
“They were never like the stars,” Cassie said of her parents’ athletic careers. “I guess we were just blessed. They’ve pushed us extra hard, too.”
Her three brothers motivated Cassie.
Cameron Kuerschen, 21, played football at Grace Christian Academy. He went to East Tennessee State University on a football scholarship, played one season, and stopped playing for medical reasons; he attends Tennessee.
Chase Kuerschen, a sophomore starting safety for Tulane’s football team, played football and basketball at Catholic, while the youngest of the three brothers, Connor, is a senior basketball player at Catholic.
“They’ve constantly pushed me,” Cassie said of her brothers. “Ever since I was born, I’ve been growing up around sports. Watching them play football and basketball and baseball, it’s just always been something that I’ve wanted to do and something I’ve wanted to pursue just cause they’ve shown me that it’s in our blood and that the grind’s hard, but it’s all worth it in the end.”
Cassie played youth baseball, softball, soccer, basketball, and volleyball. She pared her sports to basketball and volleyball before opting to focus on volleyball before her freshman year at Catholic.
“When I was like super little, I automatically fell in love with volleyball,” she said. “I tried to do both for a while, and then I realized that I wanted to go to college to play volleyball, so basketball was just kind of out of the equation since I can’t do both.”
Kuerschen took over as Catholic’s starting libero midway through the 2017 season, which ended with a runner-up finish in the Class AA state tournament.
She’s got the intangibles Carter wants in a libero.
“She’s just a ferocious competitor,” Carter said. “Every time she takes the floor, she just takes up a lot of space. She has court instincts and she reads space exceptionally well, especially for a player her age, and she gets to a lot of balls that a lot of kids wouldn’t.”