Piper Set for One Final Match in Scarlet and Black|
Nov. 27, 2013
by Matt Dowdy
Four years ago, Aubree Piper likely did not see Saturday coming so soon.
One of five Texas Tech freshmen on Texas Tech's 2010 roster, Piper has played in 103 matches during her Red Raider career, but it's match No. 104 that she might remember the most.
Piper, now the lone Red Raider senior this year, will be recognized Saturday afternoon prior to the Red Raiders' season finale against TCU set for 3 p.m. at the United Spirit Arena.
"I've been playing volleyball for over a decade now and (Saturday) is going to be my very last game," said Piper earlier this week. "I don't think all the emotions have really hit me yet. All of my family is going to be here, so I'm really excited but at the same time I'm really sad."
Piper has been a presence in the middle since she stepped foot on campus. She has totaled 730 kills heading into Saturday while hitting at a .248 career average, a percentage that currently ranks her in the top-10 in Texas Tech history.
She has done so while battling multiple injuries and illness throughout her previous three seasons where she missed a total of 21 matches.
As a senior, however, Piper has recorded her best statistical season to date, connecting on a team-high 290 kills while adding 18 service aces and 69 blocks while starting in each of Tech's 31 contests so far.
"It was tough seeing Aubree with several bumps and bruises along the way but give her credit, she's always worked diligently to get healthy and back on the court," said head coach Don Flora, who arrived at Tech prior to Piper's 2011 sophomore season. "Our staff has enjoyed working with her and seeing her develop over what has been a great career. She will be a tough player to replace that's for sure."
Possibly no one has seen Piper's career develop more than current assistant coach Beth Falls.
Falls, now in her eighth season on the Red Raider bench, helped recruit her to Tech and then spent part of Piper's freshman season as the program's interim head coach in 2010.
Under Falls, Piper has gone from a young freshman who had to adjust early to Big 12 Conference play to a senior who is just one block assist away from joining the top-10 in Tech career history. She has totaled 216 block assists heading into Saturday, one shy of Stacey Blasingame (1983-85) for 10th all-time at Tech.
"Aubree has always been a special player in my mind," Falls said. "She has really been our most reliable middle all four years and has never given up. She came here to help change a program and I think she's done that in some ways. We will definitely miss Aubree not just for what she does on the court but for how she is off the court as well. She's a great personality to be around."
Growing up just a 100 miles north of Lubbock in Amarillo, Piper has played most of her career in front of friends and family who would make the quick two-hour drive south for a Wednesday night or Saturday match.
Her parents have seen the majority of her career, traveling to both Lubbock and most of the Big 12 road matches which was a key factor in Piper ultimately signing with Tech out of high school over offers from several other conference schools.
"Two big things for me in coming here were that I wanted to help build this program and I wanted to be close to my family," said Piper, who helped lead Canyon Randall High School to the Class 4A state title as a senior. "Having my parents being able to come to nearly every game is such a big deal, and me coming here has made that possible."
Her family will make one final trip to Lubbock this weekend and stand with Piper when she is recognized prior to facing the Horned Frogs. She will have her parents, John and Anita Piper, and her other brother, Cole, all in attendance for that one final match in scarlet and black.
"I can't believe four years has already gone by," Piper said. "I feel like I've only been here two (years). It's crazy how fast it flies by and everyone said that it would. I didn't think it would fly by like this."
Regardless of a win or a loss Saturday, though, Piper has left an impact at Tech not just felt in the record book but by her teammates and coaches as well.
But as for the match, a win might make for one special day.
"A win would mean the world to me," Piper added. "We beat TCU earlier this year and that was the most exciting match I think we've had this year. I want to go out on that note. I want it to be fun for everybody."