Marion High School Athletics


Rucker signs with surging Philander Smith

Photo Credit: Chuck Livingston


Kiah Rucker's excitement as she thanked her family, friends, teammates, and coaches was obvious to everyone assembled in the lobby of Marion High School. The senior all-state volleyball player was making sure she didn't miss anyone upon signing to play college volleyball at Philander Smith in Little Rock. “I'm really excited to get there and get started,” said Rucker, who appeared in four state tournaments at Marion. “I love the campus, I love our coach, I love where I get to live when I get there. They have so many programs that I'm interested in. I think it's the perfect place for me to start my college and adult life.” “I believe Kiah's best volleyball is still in front of her,” said Marion head volleyball coach Lisa Beasley. “She works hard, she loves the game, and she's a blast to be around. We will miss her around her, but Philander is getting a gem of a person and a player. Kiah will be a great one there.” Rucker promoted to the varsity following her freshman volleyball season in junior high, and she showcased her hitting ability late that varsity season and into the state tournament. She locked a starting spot as a sophomore on a veteran team that finished 15-4 overall, including a 12-2, conference runner-up mark in 2022. Rucker's Patriots won a state tournament game that October for the first time since 2017. Rucker earned all-conference honors as a junior, finishing second on the club in blocks and third in kills. The 2021 Patriots finished 27-2, a mark that included the school's first conference title and semifinal appearance since 2016. As one of just three seniors on the 2022 Patriots, teams often knew that Rucker would be the team's go-to hitter, but it didn't seem to matter. In an all-state final year, Rucker topped Marion in kills and blocks, as the Patriots again earned 20 victories, finished as league runners-up, and went back to the quarterfinals with one of the younger varsity teams in school history. Philander Smith finished 22-11 in 2022, including an 11-4 final mark in the GCAC. The Panthers stormed through the GCAC conference tournament, topping Dillard in four sets for the crown. Philander exited the NAIA National Tournament in the opening round. The past two seasons of Philander volleyball have marked the school's first two appearances in the GCAC tournament final. “I want to do whatever coach needs me to do when I get there,” said Rucker. “I'm coming in right now as a middle, but if she needs me on the right side for some reason, that's no problem. If she needs me to serve or be a libero then I'll do that. I just want to help the team. Coach knows what's best for our team, so I want to be that player for her.” “Kiah will have a huge impact on their program from the time she gets to campus,” said Beasley. “Everybody here at Marion has seen how good she is and how great she plays all the time, but there's an inner beast waiting to be let out. When that happens then it's going to be trouble for the other teams, and I can't wait to see it happen for her.” Rucker exits Marion with 502 career kills, 165 career blocks, 73 digs, and 23 assists. She twice earned all-conference honors and she earned all-state and all-star honors as a senior.