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BOULDER —University of Colorado volleyball coach Liz Kritza has announced the addition of five athletes, four freshmen and one transfer, to the roster for the 2013 season.

Freshmen Katherine Hawkins (Blaine, Minn.), Gwen Herring (San Diego, Calif.), Kate Klepetka (Allen, Texas), Cierra Simpson (Colorado Springs, Colo.) and junior Taylor Simpson (Colorado Springs, Colo.) have all joined the CU program and are currently enrolled in summer school.

“I am very excited to add these talented athletes to our roster,” Kritza said. “This group is comprised of a good combination of sizeable players from some of the nation’s most competitive club programs, hardworking ball control players, and some superior athletes that drastically elevate the level in our gym. We are looking forward to starting practice in August and getting everyone in the gym to work towards having our best season yet.”

Bios for each of the five are below in alphabetical order:



Hawkins played club volleyball for Mizuno Northern Lights and was coached by Adam Beamer. The team won seven tournaments in the spring of 2013, including Colorado Crossroads, Coracchia (Italy) and the AAU Super Regional. The team also posted a third place finish at the 2013 USA Volleyball Junior National Championships in Dallas earlier this month.  Hawkins decided to come to Colorado because she loved everything about it. Hawkins, a 5-8 defensive specialist, played for Blaine High School under Celeste Gorman. The team finished the 2012 season with a 31-3 overall record. During that season, Hawkins recorded 203 kills and 324 digs and was named all-conference honorable mention. The Bengals compiled a 27-4 record in 2011 and in 2010, they finished 24-5. She was honored with the Bengal Award all four years for being a team player.

Hawkins was born on March 3, 1995 in Fridley, Minn. She is the daughter of Patrick and Kristine Hawkins of Blaine, Minn., and has two sisters, Rebecca and Elizabeth. In her free time Hawkins enjoys fishing and boating. She intends to major in integrative physiology.

“Kat is a strong athlete who has challenged herself to play amongst the nation’s top players and finds a way to contribute to her team and to be a driving force for constant improvement in the gym,” Kritza said. “Her time here at CU looks to be just as promising as she acclimates to the college game and the strength of the Pac-12. The energy that this kid brings to the gym is infectious and she will be a quality representative of this program in all facets.”


Herring graduated from La Costa Canyon High School. She was a 5-9 outside hitter, libero and defensive specialist for the Mavericks and was coached by Pat McDougal. As a senior, Herring helped her team to a 28-11 overall record and during her junior year the team recorded a 31-9 record. The Mavericks won the league championship from 2010-2012 as well as the CIF Championship. In 2011, the squad also won the southern California regional championship.

Herring played for the Encinitas Wave Volleyball Club and was coached by Jackie Bernardin. She turned her attention to her beach volleyball game by playing for a beach volleyball club this past year before enrolling at CU.  Prior to signing with the Buffs, she was recruited by UC-Davis, Loyola Marymount, Santa Clara, Denver, Pepperdine and Stanford. She chose CU because it was the right fit.

Herring was born on May 10, 1995 in San Diego, Calif. She is the daughter of Robert and Janette Herring of Carlsbad, Calif.  Herring has one older sister, Amelia, who plays tennis at Stanford. She enjoys going to the beach, playing sports, drawing and hanging out with friends. Herring intends to major in business but is also interested in marketing.

“Gwen is a fiery competitor who is determined to improve and challenge herself every day,” said Kritza. “She brings strong playing experience against some of the top prep and club players in southern California and looks to make a difference on any team she is a part of. We are excited to see what she can do here at Colorado and her beach experience will be a huge plus for her in terms of the possibility of sand volleyball here at CU.”


Klepetka, a 5-8 libero and defensive specialist, earned two letters as a libero for the Allen High School Eagles under coach Kelly Gregorview. As a senior, she recorded 687 digs, 100 assists and 40 kills. Klepetka was named all-district first team as well as all-academic first team and was named the defensive player of the year in 2012 and 2011. As a junior, Klepetka was also named second team all-district.

She played for the Dallas Premier Volleyball Club for coach Bryan Stanfield. Her team placed 11th in the American division at nationals after a fifth-place finish in 2011. Klepetka was also recruited by Mississippi, Miami and Albany but decided on CU because of the great coaching and awesome people.

Klepetka was born on July 20, 1995 in Dallas. She is the daughter of Bob and Jodie Klepetka of Allen, Texas and has one younger sister, Grace. Klepetka intends to major in integrative physiology.

“Kate brings a good deal of playing experience from both her club and prep careers,” Kritza said. “She will provide some excellent depth in all of our ball control positions and will help to make the competition for those positions more challenging. Kate’s prowess extends beyond her accomplishments on the court and we look for her to continue to find success in the classroom as well.” 


Cierra Simpson, a 6-0 defensive specialist and outside hitter, was a member of the Doherty High School team that won the 2012 5A Colorado State High School Championship after winning the Colorado Spring Metro League Championship to complete its 29-0 perfect season. During the season, Simpson recorded 182 kills, 208 digs, 40 blocks and 39 aces in 86 sets and was named to the Under Armour High School All-America Watch List. DHS recorded a pair of third-place finishes at the 2009 and 2010 state championships. Simpson was named the DHS Most Valuable Player as a junior, helping to guide the Spartans to a share of the Colorado Springs Metro League Championship.

Over the course of four years with the Spartans, Simpson was a two-time first team all-area 4A/5A Colorado Springs team member, a three-time first team all-conference member and was named to the second team once. Simpson was an academic all-state first team selection and DHS honor roll member her freshman through senior years. She was also a member of the National Honor Society and earned the CU James H. Baker Scholarship.

Simpson played club volleyball for Colorado Juniors under the direction of Kevin Marquis. The team placed second at the Puerto Rico National Championship in 2013 and won the same tournament in 2012. Simpson was named to the all-tournament team after helping her team to the victory. She was also recruited by UT-San Antonio, Kansas State, Northern Colorado, Georgia Southern and DePaul but came to CU because she loved the coaching staff, campus, location and the fact that the Buffs play in one of the top conferences in the country.

Simpson was born on May 16, 1995 in Spokane, Wash. She is the daughter of Rich and Serena Simpson. Rick played basketball at Louisiana Tech and Serena played basketball at UMKC. Simpson won the 2012 Colorado 5A State Volleyball Championship at DHS with her younger sister Gabby. Simpson also has an older sister, Taylor, who is a member of the CU volleyball team and another younger sister, Riley. Simpson enjoys playing sports, running, reading, writing and traveling and intends to major in broadcast journalism and is also interested in law.

“Cierra is a welcomed addition as one of the top players in Colorado in this recruiting class,” Kritza said. “Her addition helps to make Colorado volleyball truly a family affair and we know she will be an excellent representative of CU on the court, in the classroom, and in the community.  I have watched CeCe for quite some time while recruiting in state and know that she is a gifted athlete who has many possibilities in this program because of that athleticism. We look forward to her very bright future in a Buffs’ jersey.”


Taylor Simpson joined the Buffs in January and shortly after she tried out and made the USA Volleyball A2 National Team which competed during the summer in Dallas. She also earned a spot on the roster for the USA Beach Volleyball A2 National Team that trained and competed this month in southern California.

Prior to joining the Buffs, Simpson played a season at Missouri (2012) and a season with Nebraska (2011). Simpson played in 14 matches for the Tigers, starting in eight of those contests (47 sets). During the 2012 season, she recorded 118 kills and hit .267. She also added 50 digs and 30 blocks for 139.0 points. Simpson recorded 12 kills and 13 digs against Virginia Tech (8/26/12) and led the Tigers with 11 kills against Appalachian State (9/1/12). Mizzou finished the year 19-11.

Simpson played in 12 matches (34 sets) before she was sidelined with a season-ending injury in 2011 with the Huskers. She recorded four kills on six attacks for a hitting percentage of .500 against Weber State (9/10/11). Simpson also posted three blocks against New Mexico State (8/26/11) and Albany (9/3/11). The Huskers won the Big Ten Championship that year and went on to play in the NCAA Tournament. NU finished the season with a 25-5 overall record.

Simpson had a decorated career at Doherty High School. As a senior, she garnered numerous awards, which included being named the Colorado 5A Player of the Year and earning the Sportswomen of Colorado high school volleyball award. Simpson was named the No. 9 player in the country by and was named to Volleyball Magazine’s Fab-50. Simpson played in the Under Armour All-American game for the red team and was also named to the AVCA High School All-American first team, as well as an ESPN RISE All-American honorable mention selection. Simpson was also tabbed as a Preseason All-American by MaxPreps. She also recorded 471 kills, 60 blocks, 312 digs and 21 aces as a senior.

During Simpson’s senior and junior years, she was named to the All-Colorado Team,’s High School All-American Team, First Team All-Colorado 5A and helped her team finish third at the state championships both seasons.

As a junior, Simpson was named to the MaxPreps All-American Team and PrepVolleyball's Top-50 Juniors list. She was also honored as the Colorado 5A Player of the Year. That season she notched 446 kills, 46 blocks, 30 aces and 289 digs.

During her three seasons at DHS, Simpson was named first team All-Colorado Springs Metro League and first team All-4A/5A Area. As a sophomore, she helped DHS to a fifth-place finish at the state championship and was named to the All-Colorado 5A second team.

Simpson was also involved with USA Volleyball in high school. She earned a spot on the 2010 U.S. Youth Olympic Team that finished second in Singapore at the Inaugural Youth Olympics. Simpson led the team at the tournament and recorded 11 kills, six blocks and an ace in the final match of the tournament. She was also a member of the USA Youth National Training Team.

Simpson was born on September 10, 1993 in Colorado Springs, Colo. She is the daughter of Rich and Serena Simpson. Rick played basketball at Louisiana Tech and Serena played basketball at UMKC. Her sisters, Cierra and Gabby, won the 2012 Colorado 5A State Volleyball Championship at DHS. She also has another younger sister, Riley. Simpson enjoys writing, readying, traveling and playing sports. Simpson is undecided on a major. 

“Taylor’s addition to our program is significant,” Kritza said. “She is a highly decorated player and has a myriad of playing experiences at the top levels of prep, club and even international volleyball; but it is her desire to be excellent that is really unique. She is a fantastic athlete who has lofty goals, as well as the combination of skill, athleticism and determination to realize those goals. She has found a home here and will thrive in a Colorado jersey while she leads the charge against the top players in the nation in the Pac-12.”

The 2013 season is just around the corner as the Buffs report for fall camp on August 11 and will have their first practice on August 12.