Thursday, November 4, 2010

Prep Profile - Kate Acker

from today's Waukesha Freeman --

PREP PROFILE

Acker a rare mix of talent
CMH senior ‘a special breed of player’
By Daniel Mike Freeman Staff


WAUKESHA – Ted Schulte saw something in Kate Acker as a freshman.

A defensive specialist for the Catholic Memorial High School girls volleyball team her first year, Acker was tremendous at getting the ball in the air. But every now and then she got a chance to wind up and hit from the back row and turned some heads each time the ball came off her hand.

“Back there, you’re asked to pass balls, play defense and serve,” said Schulte, the CMH coach. “During the course of her freshman season, I observed when we had to set her in the back row she took a good, big swing.”

That prompted Schulte, who has guided the Crusaders back to the state tournament this week in Green Bay where they will try for a second straight Division 2 championship, to move Acker to an outside hitter position, where she has excelled ever since.

“When I first started playing club when I was younger, everyone said, ‘Well, Kate’s never going to be tall, and she’s so fast. She should play defense,’” Acker said.

“My sophomore year, Ted just decided I could jump in and hit. I was really shocked, but I’m thankful he made the decision to let me hit.”

While Acker never grew much – she is now 5-foot-8 – she can hit with the best of them. She was a firstteam all-state pick as a junior and has helped the Crusaders back to the WIAA Division 2 state tournament.

“She’s one of those special breed of players who can do a lot of different things so well,” Schulte said. “Her sophomore year, I wanted to get her on the floor more often.

“She’s on the floor three more rotations, and she has really become a good, complete player.”

With her experience as a defensive specialist her freshman year and with the Milwaukee Sting club team, and with her time as a hitter, Acker has developed into a jack of all trades for the Crusaders. No matter where she’s lined up, she is a force, able to hit, pass, dig, serve and anything else asked of her.

“I obviously love playing volleyball, and I love being on the floor,” Acker said. “I like the sense of focus and knowing all the hard work has paid off.

“When I can do something to help the team win, it’s the best feeling in the world.”

Helping her team is the ultimate goal for Acker, and that can be evident in the most stressful situations. Perhaps her biggest moment came last season with her team’s season on the line. The Crusaders were in the fifth set of a sectional final against Kettle Moraine Lutheran, and KML was serving for the match up 14-13.

“KML served match point to Kate, and they had been trying to pick on her all night long to tire her out,” Schulte said. “Kate passes the ball well, not perfect, but well, and the setter sets the ball back to Kate on the outside.

“Kate probably had the best swing she’s had in her career, probably her biggest jump of the year and hit a blistering ball down the line. It was a completely undefendable kind of shot to knot it back up. We served to win the game.

“It’s that kind of clutch performance where you say, ‘This kid is something special.’”

She brings an intensity to the court that many players don’t possess. She has a killer instinct and nothing fazes her on the floor. It’s an impressive trait for someone who is outgoing and personable off the court.

“Losing really isn’t an option for us,” Acker said. “I’m really competitive, and I hate to lose. It’s more of an instinct to just give it all I got.

“It’s not an obvious characteristic of mine, but I think it’s on the court mainly. I’m not that competitive off the court. I think I’m pretty friendly.”

Acker’s versatility has earned her a scholarship for the University of Denver, where she committed to play in April.

“Denver was actually one of first schools I started the recruiting process with,” Acker said. “I figured I’d call them, practice talking to coaches and scheduled a visit. I loved it right away.

“The school’s nice, and the location was perfect. The girls and the coaches are awesome.”

She is unsure what position she’ll play at Denver.

“My freshman year, I will probably start off on defense and see how I progress as a hitter,” Acker said. “I’d much rather be playing that having to sit on the bench, so either one is fine.”

Schulte believes Denver is receiving a special player.

“The all-around player truly is a dying breed,” Schulte said. “The rule changes are allowing coaches to ask kids to specialize in one or two phases of game instead of all six.”

E-mail: dmike@conleynet.com

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