Kate Keegan won, and often won big, throughout her four years of high school volleyball. The University of West Florida Argonauts have been winning for longer.
Beginning this fall, Keegan and the Argonauts will be a match. A Morris native who attended Wheaton St. Francis High School for the last two years, Keegan will attend UWF on a scholarship and play volleyball. She joins a program that has produced eight consecutive winning seasons. The last time the Argonauts finished below .500, in 2004, they were restricted to 12 matches by Hurricane Ivan.
Keegan was part of a St. Francis team that won the 2012 Class 3A state championship and a club team at Sports Performance that won a national championship. She was a postseason call-up to varsity teams at Morris High that won regionals as a freshman and again as a sophomore.
“The national championship was amazing,” Keegan said. “I was a 17-year-old on an 18-and-under team. The level of play was so much different from what I considered normal. I was a junior spending the year playing with a bunch of seniors who were all pretty much going Division I.”
“I felt super comfortable on that (2012 Wheaton St. Francis) team. It’s different from club. I don’t know quite how to explain it. It’s more like friendships and just the chance to play with people you’re really close to. My teammates and I all got along so well.”
Keegan is already in Florida, participating in open gyms and preparing for official team activities to begin. She does not know what kind of role she might play initially. According to UWF head coach Melissa Wolter, who is about to enter her 11th season at the school, Keegan is part of a loaded group of incoming talent.
“We are thrilled about the composition of the 2013 recruiting class,” Wolter said in a UWF release. “We looked all across the country for proven winners on the court and in the classroom. These eight young ladies will add depth in every position, tremendous athleticism, pure love for the sport of volleyball and a hunger to help our program reach the next level. This is definitely the strongest recruiting class we’ve ever had.”
Keegan’s roles have varied during the past few years. Her primary career varsity statistics — four aces and 39 digs — are atypically modest for a college-bound player, though that is due in part to her position (defensive specialist) and to the fact that she had to sit out her junior season after transferring to St. Francis from Morris. But during her most recent season at Sports Performance, she says, she rarely got a break.
“I played six rotations,” Keegan said. “I was on the court 24-7.”
The two years at St. Francis gave Keegan a preview of what she might face as a freshman attending an out-of-state college.
Between that experience and her years in the structured environment of a club like Sports Performance, she says she feels uniquely prepared for the change in environment.
“It’s easier to go away to school when you’ve already done it,” Keegan said. “I only knew like five girls (at St. Francis) at first, so I had to make all new friends. It wasn’t that big a deal — I’m not that shy a person — and being in a sport, it was super easy to get to know people.”
Keegan was initially recruited by UWF at a recruiting combine hosted by Sports Performance last December.
“There are tons and tons of college coaches that go. They get a packet of information on you, and if they like what they see or you play one of the different positions they’re looking for they’ll talk to you,” Keegan said. “This coach came up to see me and talked to me for a while. I mean, I had never even heard of West Florida before that, but she came straight to me.”
“I had always been interested in Florida, just because of the weather and the area. ... The coaches were awesome. It seemed like a super fun environment.”