Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Kate Acker named Player of the Year

from JSOnline.Com --

Girls volleyball

Acker named player of year
Senior led team to state title
By Mark Stewart of the Journal Sentinel
Dec. 12, 2010

The greatest finds often come by chance or a hunch.
At the start of the 2008 season, Catholic Memorial coach Ted Schulte decided to give Kate Acker a shot at playing left-side hitter.

Up to that point, the sophomore was considered a defensive specialist. But after watching how well she hit from the back row as a freshman, Schulte decided it was time to see what she could do in the front row.

"It didn't take but a week to find out that was a good idea," Schulte said. "She was magnificent. . . . We never looked back. It was a done deal."

And so began the rise of one of the area's top players over the next three years. Acker went on to make second-team all area that year. As a junior, she was the go-to hitter on the Memorial's Division 2 state championship team and a first-team all-area selection. This year, she took a backseat to no one.

Propelled by an all-around game that helped Memorial win its second straight Division 2 title, Acker is the Journal Sentinel's girls volleyball player of the year.

The team was selected by the Journal Sentinel, which reviewed nominations from area coaches and as well as all-state and all-conference teams.

It was a banner season for the Crusaders, who were without question the top team in the area and state. They won the area's top tournaments - the Milwaukee Lutheran/St. Thomas More Joust in August, Lynn LaPorte Sprawl in September and WIAA state in November - and did so with a roster that featured five players who will play on scholarship in college.

Two of those players, senior libero Patti Abshire and senior middle hitter Kelli Browning, joined Acker on the all-area first team. To understand Acker's role in this impressive collection of talent, consider her nickname: The Igniter.

Schulte gave Acker the ball at the start of every match. Rarely did she disappoint.
"She was a superb server, so (I said) let's give her the opportunity to set the tone of the match, and she would do that," Schulte said. "And because she was such a good back-row hitter, it wasn't like we were losing anything."

The result was that Memorial, which finished the year 42-4, jumped on most opponents from the start, a key reason the team didn't drop a set in conference play and lost just one match to an in-state opponent.

Acker had 66 aces and just 26 errors in 595 serves, handcuffing opponents with a jump serve that would drop unpredictably.

She also ignited the Crusaders defense, often setting up the team's setters with workable passes off the serves she'd receive. She handled 396 serves and had just 26 reception errors, recording a personal-best rating of 2.376. She also had 300 digs.

And then there was her hitting. Though 5-foot-8, Acker was an explosive jumper who could attack from the front or back row. She finished with 269 kills and posted a .337 kill percentage.
"As complete a player as I have seen all year," New Berlin West coach Joel Golsteyn wrote in an e-mail. "She does everything exceptionally. She has more shots than anyone I have seen. She is also one of the smartest players I have seen."

At state, she had eight kills, one off the team high, and three aces in the Crusaders' 3-0 victory over Waupun in the semifinals. The next day, the University of Denver recruit posted a team-high 15 digs in a 3-1 victory over in Madison Edgewood in the title match.

Acker's versatility came in handy right down to the end.

"She is the model of the old-fashioned player when you had so many fewer subs (and) players had to have skills in so many different phases," Schulte said. "The modern era allows for so much more specialization, but Kate is a player who is outstanding in so many phases of the game, which makes her very special to work with."

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