Former All-American outside hitter Tabitha Brown told The Eagle she is transferring from the Wichita State volleyball program and will play her fifth year at Rice in 2019.
The NCAA deemed Brown, a 5-foot-10 outside hitter and Houston-area native, eligible as a graduate transfer in late November. Rice will be the third stop in Brown’s collegiate career. She played her freshman season at Alabama before transferring and playing the last three seasons at WSU, where she earned honorable mention All-American status as a junior.
Brown said Rice was the perfect fit. It’s a 30-minute drive from where she attended high school. The volleyball program is on the rise and is coming off a 24-7 season where it played in the NCAA Tournament. Brown plans on pursuing a Master of Arts in Global Affairs degree.
“Getting that waiver was nothing short of a blessing,” Brown told The Eagle. “Being able to go to grad school and getting it paid for, that’s everybody’s dream because it’s so expensive. And then the option to play closer to home, especially in one of the places I’ve been going to since I was a kid. To be able to play in that same gym now is absolutely surreal. It’s just amazing.”
It was actually WSU volleyball coach Chris Lamb who originally came up with the idea to apply for a waiver. Because Brown was just three games over the threshold to apply for a medical redshirt before an injury ended her freshman season at Alabama, Lamb thought it might be worth pursuing.
The coach worked closely with Tabitha Brown and her mother, Latisha, WSU assistant athletic director for compliance Korey Torgerson and WSU athletic director Darron Boatright in the process. Even though they knew there was a possibility Brown could use the waiver to transfer to another program, WSU remained supportive of its star player.
“I think it’s kind of iffy with some coaches, but Lambo is a good guy and he said he would support me no matter what I did and that’s exactly what he did,” Tabitha Brown said. “He kept his promise. And Korey made sure it was perfect. He did so much to help us and he was such a huge help.
“I’m leaving Wichita with nothing but gratitude.”
Brown is one of just 11 players in WSU history to earn honorable mention All-American status. Her three-year career at WSU placed her No. 6 all-time in program history at 3.1 kills per set and just outside the all-time top-10 list for career kills with 1,078.
While WSU sputtered through its first losing season (14-18) since 2001 after heavy graduations, Brown became a better all-around player in her senior season. Despite teams keying on her as WSU’s top weapon, Brown registered 368 kills and a career-best 326 digs this past season.
But her favorite memory in Wichita will be the 2017 team that finished 29-4, won an undefeated American Athletic Conference championship, then hosted the opening rounds of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history. Brown was one of the only underclassmen that played on that team, as she had her best offensive season of her career with 385 kills on a .268 hitting percentage.
“That team really can’t be matched,” Brown said. “It was such a blessing to play on that team. We had a great setter. We had great liberos. We had great blockers. We had everything. Every shoe was perfectly filled. We fought so hard as a team and we gelled. It was a cruise for everybody. That was something I’ll always remember and take with me.”