A Lady Longhorn four-year letter winner in volleyball has inked an athletic scholarship offer to play next season for the Eastern Arizona College Gila Monsters.
Katelyn Curtis made the decision last week to play next year at EA — a school several of her family members previously attended.
“She is very happy to play there,” said volleyball coach Arnold Stonebrink. “She is attracted to the high morals and standards that seem to prevail there.”
Curtis is the second senior on the 2011 team to accept a scholarship to take her game to the next level.
Just last month, setter Rachel Creighton announced she would next season play for Colorado Northwestern Community College.
“Both girls are as fine of people as you’d want to meet and deserve all the honors and perks of playing college volleyball,” said Stonebrink.
While Curtis was a Lady Horn standout for four years, it was during her senior season that she showcased the mettle that helped her earn post-season honors and a college scholarship offer.
Stonebrink calls her senior year, “her greatest challenge” because Curtis was forced to play both middle and outside hitter due to teammate injuries and academic ineligibilities.
“She was unable to get particularly comfortable in just playing one position,” Stonebrink said. “In spite of it all, Katelyn hit .194 overall and .225 from the middle, which was the best anyone hit from one position.”
Further compounding Curtis’ challenge was that the Lady Horns played a rugged, demanding schedule that eventually proved to be the second most difficult among the 48 Division III teams.
Also her senior year, Curtis improved her serving enough to lead the team in that category and became one of the Lady Horns’ best passers and diggers which earned her playing time in the back row.
At the Flagstaff Coconino Tournament, her efforts garnered the respect of coaches who voted her the event’s Most Valuable Player.
Most importantly, Curtis — who was named a captain last season — was at her best against Payson’s toughest opponents including Tuba City, Blue Ridge, Fountain Hills, Saguaro and Snowflake.
Stonebrink is quick to tell the story of how Curtis broke open a hard-fought 15-13 skirmish against Snowflake by jump serving 10 straight winners to win the match.
“Her statistics and performance on varsity is only one impressive dimension of Katelyn,” Stonebrink said while lauding her leadership style as, “positive, encouraging and sensitive.”
Curtis sprang onto the volleyball season as a 14-year-old, wide-eyed freshman who was called up to fill a varsity void for both the regional and state tournaments.
Playing varsity is a tough challenge for any first-year player, but Curtis rose to the occasion holding down the designated server position.
In a state tournament first-round clash against Fountain Hills and with the score tied 10-10, Curtis — after a side out — scored two crucial service winners to give the Lady Horns a 13-10 lead. The team went on to win 15-13 and garner Payson’s first state victory in 12 years.
“She was nervous, but she didn’t show it,” said Stonebrink.
During Curtis’ sophomore season she became a full-time starter mostly at right side hitter, although she did receive some playing time at middle hitter.
Stonebrink remembers her success that year was because, “She worked hard to improve her game in the off-season, playing club volleyball.”
As promising as she was as a sophomore, it wasn’t until her junior year she began to turn heads around the state.
“She really began to shine,” Stonebrink said. “She played the entire season as middle hitter, hitting a team leading .245”
Showing her versatility, she also led the Lady Horns in blocking and became one of the team’s top servers, mostly because she had perfected her devastating jump serve.
Her all-around play eventually helped the Lady Horns win their first regional championship in 16 years and earn a berth in the final eight of the state tournament.
Curtis’ finest performance at state might have been against a tough Window Rock team that eventually finished as tournament runner-up.
“She hit .261 and in 19 serves had three aces, no errors and 11 service winners,” Stonebrink said. “Those stats are indicative of the type of player she is.”
In addition to being an accomplished athlete, Curtis is an honor student and active in her church.
At EA, she will major in business.