Byline: Stephen Kindland, Times-Union sports writer
Middleburg volleyball standout Stephanie Bradley committed to play at the University of South Florida earlier this week, and it was the similarity between Bradley's high school coach and USF head coach Claire Lessinger that weighed heavily in her decision.
Bradley, who holds school records for kills and service aces in a single season, chose South Florida over several other possibilities, including Cal State-Fullerton and Pacific University in Oregon, two of the top programs in the nation.
"I'm excited," Bradley said. "I knew I wanted to stay in Florida. I won't sign until April, but I made the [verbal] commitment."
Bradley, a 6-foot outside hitter who led her team to two consecutive runner-up finishes in the Class 4A state championship series, said she felt right at home after meeting with Lessinger.
She said she liked the way Lessinger runs the program, and that, "It was just like talking to coach [Carrie] Prewitt" when she visited the campus last weekend.
Lessinger was a five-year player (1993-97) at the University of Florida, where she played middle blocker and helped the Lady Gators to five consecutive Southeast Conference titles and the school's first No. 1 national ranking.
Prewitt, who has helped some 50 of her players sign college scholarships in her 20 years at the school, said she thinks Bradley has a lot to bring to the USF table.
"As good as she is, that's only a fraction of what she'll be in four years," Prewitt said. "She's got court experience and she knows how to win. …