Red Bank High School outside hitter Kalyn Helton has accepted a scholarship offer to play volleyball at the University of Tennessee. Her decision came over the weekend after returning from a Lady Vols scrimmage in Knoxville on Saturday.
The 6-foot-1 Helton was an all-city and all-state selection last season after leading the Chattanooga area in kills with 778. She also had 560 digs and 154 aces in helping the Lady Lions win the Class AA state title and set a season school record with 56 victories.
East Tennessee State, UNC-Wilmington, Winthrop, David Lipscomb and Palm Beach Atlantic were other schools showing interest in Helton. She's considering majoring in communications.
"What I really liked was the coaches and players," Helton said of UT. "Everybody is really friendly, very believable. I just liked the fact it's the highest level of volleyball there is. They're picked to finish first in the SEC this year. I really liked their academics, too, and what they had to offer me there. And it's only about an hour and a half away from home."
Helton attended a one-day clinic Lady Volunteers coach Rob Patrick conducted at Baylor in June, not long after he had seen her playing for her club team, Choo Choo City Volleyball, in an AAU national tournament in Orlando. Helton was then invited her to come to a camp in Knoxville in July, which is when UT's scholarship offer was made.
Choo Choo City coach Mike Pittman said he's been part of a group that's tried to help advance the level of youth volleyball in Chattanooga and Helton is a product of that.
"She's certainly one of the better volleyball athletes to come out of Chattanooga," Pittman said. "Her signing with such a high-profile program and coach the caliber of coach Patrick speaks to the caliber of athletes we're starting to build in Chattanooga and speaks very highly of Kalyn."
Christel Brooks is Red Bank's head coach and Helton's mother. She said her daughter made her greatest strides as a player from 10th grade to last year, which is when college programs began to take notice.
Helton credited her athletic growth to working with volleyball specialist Clarissa Immel at the Fury Performance Training Service. She has been measured touching as high as 10 feet.
"It's been fun watching her develop and improve," Brooks said. "She's very disciplined. She's worked hard to be the player she is. It's been such a joy for me. She has a passion for the game."