Next step: Lee's Kuechle signs with TWU

Robert E. Lee outside hitter Mallory Kuechle (seated, middle) signs a scholarship letter of intent Wednesday to Texas Women's University at the Suddenlink Communications Field House. Pictured with Kuechle are her father Jerry Kuechle (seated, left) and mother Pam Kuechle (seated, right). In back (from left) are Chris Stonestreet and Kyle Heck from APEC Performance, grandfather Alex Tapp, grandmother Bernice Tapp, coach Gary Lee and REL head coach Melissa Lee. (Chris Parry | Tyler Morning Telegraph)

Robert E. Lee senior Mallory Kuechle admits she was skeptical about Texas Woman's University.

Then she visited the Division II school in Denton and everything changed.

Now, she will be there for the next four years. Kuechle signed a scholarship letter of intent to TWU for volleyball on Wednesday afternoon at Lee's Suddenlink Communications Field House.

"The girls made me feel at home; they are just like me and the coaches there are awesome," said Kuechle, who said she chose TWU over opportunities from Northwestern State (La), Midwestern State, Lamar and Arkansas-Monticello.

"I liked some of them, but I wasn't sold on anything when I visited Texas Woman's. When I left (TWU) I was like, that is where I am going to go."

TWU's physical therapy program was also a big draw for Kuechle, who plans on majoring in PT in the fall.

As a four-year starter for Lee, Kuechle is a four-time all-district player and soon will be a three-time All-East Texas honoree when the team comes out later this year. She amassed nearly 1,500 kills. This year, Kuechle had over 400 kills and a stellar 4.2 kills per game average while also finishing second on the team in digs with over 300.

REL coach Melissa Lee said Kuechle is one of those "irreplaceable-type" players,

"I've had her since she was a freshman on varsity and I've got to watch her get better every year," Lee continued. "The last three years for sure she's been the rock of the program; she's been the go-to girl and we're going to have a hard time without her next year."

Texas Woman's participates in the Lone Star Conference and just finished third in the LSC. The Pioneers (22-7) begin their conference tournament today against Texas A&M Commerce.

Kuechle hopes to make an impact for TWU next year and believes her last season at Lee has prepared her, but adds she knows it will be a big step up.

"I know I am going to have step up as a leader and know I have big shoes to fill because their outside hitters are awesome," Kuechle said. "I just have to step up my game and learn more shots and (keep improving)."