By: Eric Myers
When middle blocker Katie Myers stepped onto campus as a true freshman last year, head coach Steve Aird knew he had a special player slotted to play in the middle. It was only a matter of when he would be able to see the talent on display during matches, as Myers was recovering from a torn ACL.
After missing the first nine games of the 2016 season, Myers made her Maryland debut against Washington on Sept. 15, 2016. She recorded two kills and one block. However, her stint in the lineup would be short-lived, as she re-injured her knee in the match.
“I told people last year that I thought she was going to be one of the better players in the conference,” Aird said. “She had an unfortunate setback in the injury.”
Myers would not return to the court last year, which preserved a year of eligibility and granted her a redshirt. The former No. 62 recruit per PrepVolleyball was now confined to the sidelines during games, which was a difficult way to begin her college career.
“It was extremely difficult [to sit out], because I’ve never sat out that long for any type of injury,” Myers said. “Six months-plus was so hard and then coming back to rehab and re-injuring myself was really damaging.”
The transition from high school game to the college game can be difficult for an athlete, and now Myers would miss nearly a full season of on-court experience. Despite that, she remained engaged during the team’s games and tried to make the best out of the situation.
“It’s definitely different seeing the game from off the court all year, and I think sitting out a year definitely had an advantage,” Myers said. “From seeing how fast everything moved—especially moving from high school to college, and then just talking to the coaches and what they’re thinking during the game, and interacting with my other teammates.”
Following the season, Myers focused on rehabbing her injury and becoming physically and mentally prepared for her second year in the program. She cut her winter break short, returning to campus early in January to continue rehab. She also stayed on campus all summer to get ready for the upcoming season. Coach Aird, who suffered a similar injury in high school, also recommended books for her to read, which would help mentally during her recovery.
During the preseason, Myers was named a team captain, along with junior Angel Gaskin. This may have come as a shock to some, due to the fact that she had only been in the program just one full year, but Maryland coaches emphasize other areas over age and experience when determining captains.
“[The captaincy] is about decision making, it’s about lifestyle, it’s about competitiveness,” Aird said. “If I needed someone to represent me, and talk to people about what I believe in, what I think this program stands for and how we operate, I think [Katie] really aligned to all those things.”
With the injury behind her, Myers is thriving in the middle for the Terps. She has started all nine matches and appeared in every set for Maryland this season. She also leads the team in blocks with 39, ranks second on the team in service aces at 12, and recording 54 kills.
“She’s just a beast,” libero Kelsey Wicinski said about Myers. “It’s just her personality. She’s a captain and she’s focused. She’s got goals. She works hard every single day. She just has that competitive mentality, where [I’m] just like ‘okay, I know she has my back.’”
As the season progresses, the younger players on Maryland’s roster will ironically look to a player who technically carries freshman status to help keep them remain even-keeled during a grueling Big Ten conference schedule, that will almost surely expose them to the highs and lows of a volleyball season.
“People look to her when we’re on down slopes, just to pick the team back up,” sophomore Gia Milana said. “And even up slopes, [to] stay calm, not get too excited. She brings a lot of maturity to the game.”
Now that Aird finally has Myers in the lineup long term, he has lauded her ability to come back from a difficult injury and is happy to finally see her talent on display in game action.
“She’s exactly what I thought she was,” Aird said. “She’s tough, she works hard, she’s highly competitive, and we’re obviously happy she’s here.”