Palisade’s Steinkirchner, Gunther sign with Mavericks




Audrey Steinkirchner has some wicked volleyball skills.

That was on display during her career at Palisade High School, and was reinforced Wednesday when her coach, Wendy MacAskill, handed her an impressive plaque after she signed a letter of intent to play volleyball at Colorado Mesa University.

With family and dozens of students cheering as she and Kane Gunther made their college choices official — Gunther will play men’s basketball for the Mavericks — their coaches praised them not only for their on-court skills but for their character and leadership.

Steinkirchner owns seven school records at Palisade — single-match kills and blocks, single-season kills and hitting percentage and career kills (1,114), blocks (201) and hitting percentage (.273).

The framed plaque has seven silver medallions, each with the Palisade High School crest, and an engraved plate with each record.

“I was happy with it,” Steinkirchner, a 6-foot-2 middle hitter said of her career, smiling.

She committed several months ago to play for the Mavericks, whereas Gunther made his final decision only this week.

“It was a couple of days ago,” said Gunther, a 6-3 guard. “I had until the end of school but I wanted to let Coach (Jim) Heaps and the program know I’m committed to them.”

He chose Mesa over Adams State and Western State, citing the Mavs’ winning tradition as a contributing factor.

“I wasn’t expecting it to take as long as it did. I’m glad it’s over,” he said of the recruiting process.

“I’m looking forward to playing at Mesa; there’s so much to look forward to. It’s a winning program, the coaching style. Everything about the program comes off well ... and they win. I love to win.”

He’s been a winner all four years, getting thrown into the starting lineup as a freshman. He so impressed the coaching staff with his leadership that they, too, had an honor for him Wednesday.

“The Kane Gunther Award will be for young kids in camps,” said Steve Phillips, who retired from coaching after Gunther’s senior season but attended the signing party. “Those players that look up to being a Palisade Bulldog from Mount Garfield Middle School or any middle school and elementary school to aspire to be the kind of person and player Kane has been for Palisade, the high school, community and the Grand Valley as a whole.”

Gunther admitted having a case of senior-itis, and Steinkirchner obviously has a bit of that, too.

“Actually, the next step is to register for classes. Tomorrow,” she said. “I’m so excited. Other than that, I’m going to try to get in the gym with those girls and pass the ball around and get to know them.

“That’s one of the most important things for me, is getting to know the team. Everything else will fall into place.”

She started playing volleyball when she was 14, and credited her team in the Western Colorado Volleyball Club for developing her passion for the sport.

“I played basketball before and then transitioned into volleyball just because people told me I was tall and it would be a good sport,” she said. “There’s just something about it.”

Her height drew plenty of attention from college recruiters, and she agreed with Gunther about the stress of narrowing her choices to only one school.

However, being familiar with Brownson Arena, CMU’s campus and the volleyball program helped. It also helped seeing so many Western Slope players succeed with the Mavericks.

“That was something Coach (Dave) Fleming brought up,” she said. “So many kids from the Western Slope have been successful there and I’m hoping I’ll fall into that category.”


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