Ashley Stathas was named Peach Belt Conference Coach of the Year for her first season as head women's volleyball coach at Greenwood, S.C.-based Lander University in 2012.
Morris Community High School senior Kendall Korte can see why. Korte says that Stathas was a big reason she opted to commit to Lander, where she will receive a scholarship covering most of her expenses and be a member of the volleyball team. Korte signed a national letter of intent in November.
"She's mostly the reason I wanted to go there," Korte said. "She came to Morris and visited me. When she showed up to practice, that was so cool. She's young and she's new and she's fun, I thought. When I went there and visited, it was a done deal. She graduated from there, and she's back trying to make it better. Hopefully I can help her."
At one point, Korte was being recruited as a defensive player, where she has played in club ball for Uno. Then it was indicated to her that she would be able to play at her high-school position, outside hitter. Now Korte is not exactly sure in which capacity she will ultimately be used.
"My coach has said she's going to have a spot for me on the outside hitter. That would be great, to be able to be in the offensive rotations. Hopefully I can start — I don't know," Korte said. "But the coach has also said her libero position is always open. I don't really care where I'm at as long as I play."
In a Lander press release, Stathas praised Korte's versatility.
"(Kendall) is a great all-around player," Stathas said. "She is a very strong serve receiver and defensive player and has the vertical to play very big in the front row as well."
MCHS coach Jackie Litwiller says Korte has the talent to thrive at the next level.
"Kendall has that natural jumping ability and court awareness that has made her a phenomenal player. She has a vertical larger than life and has the ability to read what is happening on the court," Litwiller said of Korte.
"Her off-ball movement is what makes her so great on defense. It is what she is doing away from the ball. And let's not forget that hit. She swings so well and was given the nickname 'The Hammer' as a freshman. She also has that drive to keep pushing and working hard to improve."
The distance between Morris and Greenwood is part of what drew Korte to Lander — and something that she expects will be difficult to adjust to at first.
"I mean, it is kind of tough. I'm a little nervous about leaving my family and friends," Korte said. "But I wanted to go away. I wanted to go south, for sure, if I could. I like the weather and I like the people. I figure why not go somewhere where you would like to go on vacation. I think definitely as it comes closer I'm going to get a little nervous, though."
Off the court, Korte is a straight-A student at MCHS. She will major in pre-physical therapy at Lander. She says that current Lander freshman and volleyball player Sarah Bradley shares her major, which could ease the adjustment to college academia.
"I've been working on my time management skills. Even in high school, it could be so hard when you would have practices and tournaments," Korte said. "I know it will be even tougher when I have to fit in airplane rides and the travel. It helps too that one of the girls on the team is majoring in physical therapy."