2007-06-22 / Sports

Kidder chooses UCLA

Dad breathes a sigh of relief as Moorpark High's standout volleyball player opts for Bruins over USC
By Stephen Dorman sdorman@theacorn.com

Rachael Kidder Rachael Kidder If Rachael Kidder was agonizing over her impending decision to play women's volleyball for USC or UCLA, just imagine how her dad, John, felt.

John Kidder, the offensive coordinator for Moorpark High's football team, is a UCLA grad and a proud Bruin. He played on the Bruins' offensive line from 1983 to 1987, at times protecting Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman.

"I tried not to pressure her or say things," John said. "But it's almost impossible when you're talking about USC and UCLA. Even if I didn't saying anything, I'm sure the look on my face said something."

Rachael, a 15yearold incoming junior at MHS, is a highly sought-after player among major college programs.

Although she's only been playing volleyball for four years, Rachael has quickly established herself as an elite talent on the court, said Moorpark head coach Brendan Hanson.

"She's a natural-born athlete," said Hanson of the 6foot2 outside hitter.

"When she tried out for the high school team as a freshman, it was obvious she had it all put together. I've never seen someone with her height have so much skill and coordination that young."

IRIS SMOOT/Acorn Newspapers BRUIN BANDWAGON- Although she'll only be a junior in high school next year, Moorpark High's Rachael Kidder has already made a verbal commitment to play women's volleyball at UCLA. IRIS SMOOT/Acorn Newspapers BRUIN BANDWAGON- Although she'll only be a junior in high school next year, Moorpark High's Rachael Kidder has already made a verbal commitment to play women's volleyball at UCLA. In seeking top volleyball players for their teams, colleges move fast and lock in verbal commitments early on.

The universities don't recruit underclassmen through the high schools- that's against NCAA rules. While pursuing talent, contact is first made through club coaches- most highly touted youth volleyball players compete on club travel teams- and the player then contacts the university.

According to John, nearly every college program Rachael contacted offered her a scholarship on the spot.

"USC, Washington and Florida all offered her, and each of them had only one scholarship for 2009," he said. "It never really sank in that these top 10 volleyball schools had one scholarship and offered it to her- that never set in, one day it might. . . .

"It was the fact that they need to know now. They can't wait until her senior year and miss out on 10 or 20 other girls."

Following a few unofficial visits and more recruiting letters than she could count, Rachael narrowed her choices down to USC and UCLA. She wanted to stay and play close to home.

"I wasn't very interested in some of the schools because they were from different states," Rachael said. "I didn't want to leave California."

With USC still in the equation, John prepared for the worst.

"There was a stretch where I though she was pretty serious," John said. "I told the coach at USC that I would wear a USC volleyball shirt and support USC volleyball, but no other sport. You'd never see my fingers in the air and all that, but I'd support volleyball and her, obviously."

In the end- last Thursday, to be exact- Rachael decided on the Bruins. She'll keep the UCLA tradition alive and well in the Kidder household. It was, however, a decision she made on her own terms.

"My dad was very helpful during the whole process," Rachael said. "Not that I didn't care, though, but he wasn't the main reason I'm going to UCLA. He would've been my biggest fan no matter what."

UCLA showed an interest in her before anyone else, Rachael said, and the thought of playing for the Bruins was never far from her mind.

Another deciding factor was having the opportunity to play for head coach Andy Banachowski, winner of six national championships as the Bruins' leader.

"When I think of women's volleyball, I think of UCLA," Rachael said. "The coach is a legend who's won so many games."

Hanson said Rachael's decision to commit to UCLA is a boost not only to Moorpark's girls' volleyball program, but the entire Marmonte League.

"It's going to bring a little more publicity to our program and quite possibly our league," Hanson said. "Our league might start getting a little more recognition.

"We've got a lot of highquality players in the Marmonte, and her signing this early in her career is going to be a good thing for the others."

Rachael said making a final decision was liberating, although she admits it's a bit strange knowing where she'll play in college before she becomes a junior in high school.

"It's a big relief. I know where I'm going," she said. "Before, I'd be so stressed when I'd see coaches watching me play. I'd freak out. But now I don't even care. I've got a great scholarship. It's a huge relief."

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