They can dig it
HS grads Welch, Norwood savor All-Star experience
Silver Lake Casey Welch never doubted she could play college volleyball if she wanted to. She simply had other plans.
Still, the 2006 Lansing High graduate gained some reassurance that her game was good enough when she played in the 21st Annual Kansas Volleyball Association All-Star Match at Silver Lake High School.
Of the 24 players participating - including 2006 LHS graduate Dayna Norwood - Welch is the only one who won't don a college jersey in the fall. Instead, the two-time Kaw Valley League Player of the Year will focus strictly on her academics at Kansas State University.
Anchored by Washburn Rural grad and Iowa State signee Kaylee Manns, the top setter in the state, Norwood's red team defeated Welch's blue team 3-2 (25-21, 25-14, 20-25, 25-17, 13-15). Despite the loss, Welch said she was pleased with her performance in the talent-laden match. She posted two kills, three assists, two blocks and numerous digs while having zero attack errors on eight swings. Showcasing her all-around skills, Welch's was by far one of the most balanced stat lines in the match.
"It was fun to know that I could actually hang with them so I know I could've played college if I chose to," she said.
Although it likely registered below the radar to most viewers, Welch's well-rounded performance was even more significant considering how disorganized the rest of her team appeared to be. The blue team didn't have a traditional setter, and as a result passes weren't crisp and the offense tended to be disorganized. Welch's effort defensively helped keep the blue team in the lopsided match. Plus, she was forced to play out of position.
"We had four outside hitters put on our team, so (coach David Gardner of Conway Springs) was like, 'You may have to play right side.'"
By playing on the right side, Welch mostly made support runs on the offensive side while only having a handful of swings. Instead, the ball usually went to K-State signee and Washburn Rural graduate Kelsey Chipman.
Welch likely will remember friendships more than statistics when she looks back on memories from the match. One of those friends is Chipman, whom Welch said she likely would see frequently during college.
"We talked about going to K-State and stuff," Welch said. "She's been out there taking summer classes. She might end up taking a lot of classes with me because she's Pre-Med. It should be fun. Hopefully I'll see her around a lot."
Manns, Chipman's high school teammate, anchored the red team's victory with her precise passing. The smooth setter made sure her squad was in sync from the start. Norwood said that made the match more relaxing.
"Even though we've never played together before, I thought we all clicked and did well," Norwood said.
Manns, Rossville's Ashley Shepard (14 kills), and Concordia's Jocelyn Forshee (seven kills) received the most attention on the red team, but Norwood said she was pleased with her performance. She returned numerous serves and spent most of games four and five sprawling on the floor digging balls.
"I thought I did pretty well," she said. "The serves were tough."
For Norwood, Tuesday was the first time she'd played with most of her all-star teammates. It also was her last. Most of the players in the match will play at regional colleges and universities, but Norwood will head to Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas. Still, Norwood said she enjoyed playing with the state's best.
"I love my team. They're all really nice," she said.
Norwood said participating in the all-star event was good preparation for her first few days of college volleyball.
"It gave me an idea of what college is going to be like next year with these awesome players," she said.