Photo by David Knox.
Kathryn Cather 2014
Hoover High’s Kathryn Cather is one of the top volleyball players in the state and has a jump serve a Division I assistant calls one of the best in the country.
Imagine a 6-foot-2 ballerina with a killer jump serve, and you’ve just imagined Kathryn Cather. That’s why the Hoover High senior was in so much demand by college volleyball programs all over the country before she decided to commit to the University of Mississippi.
OK, she’s really not a ballerina anymore, but she credits her nine years of studying ballet and jazz dance with enhancing her athleticism.
“Dancing helped a lot with my balance,” Cather said.
She also played basketball and soccer growing up, but it’s in volleyball that she’s made her mark as one of the top players in the state and region and even the country.
“She’s a different kind of player for this area,” said Hoover coach Chris Camper of his outside hitter/setter. “There have been some tall players come through the over the mountain area, but not many that can play multiple positions. She can play any position on the front row and do it at a high level. You could argue that if she played middle she’d be the best middle in Alabama, same for left, same for right. If you could go back in time, you could make her a setter. She sets for us.
“She’s really skilled as a volleyball player and not just a big arm swing. She’s going to Ole Miss, but she could have gone bigger. She had an offer from San Diego, which is a top-10 school in the country.”
Cather picked Ole Miss, she said, over some of the bigger Division I schools because “it’s an SEC school, but it’s one of the smaller SEC schools, and I like smaller schools.”
Camper said Cather’s jump serve is “probably the most unique serve that’s been seen in Alabama volleyball in 10 years, maybe longer.
“She has a jump serve that has the velocity of anybody in the country, and that’s from a Nebraska assistant. It breaks right to left. Most jump serves in high school go 12 to 6 [o’clock]. They come at you and drop. Hers is a slider; it breaks from 2 to 8. And if you’re in the middle of the court and it’s coming right at you, it’s not yours. It will not come to you. It’s going to come to the girl five feet to your right.
“It is a nasty, nasty ball.”
Cather said the serve just comes naturally.
“I just kind of started messing around with it,” she said. “I was playing club ball, and my coach said to jump serve and I had never jump-served before. It just started cutting that way because it’s my natural arm swing.”
Said Camper, “You’re an all-state Alabama back row player, it’s going to eat you alive. You’ve got to be an elite … somebody like the Bob Jones passers. Mountain Brook’s libero [Julia Smith], she’s a Division I libero, she can handle it. But you better be that good or it’ll eat you alive. The Nebraska assistant said it may be the second-best jump serve in the country, high school, college combined.”
All that might make you think Cather expects to be All-SEC the day she walks on the court at Oxford. Far from it.
“I’ll have to stay mentally ‘there’ because it’s going to be a different game than I’m used to,” Cather said. “There are things I’ll have to change, a lot of stuff I’m going to have to work on.”
“Kathryn is nowhere near as good as she will be,” Camper said. “Part of that is because of where we play. There is just not enough competition to push her statewide.
“If she’s going to be an All-SEC player, she’s going to have to take a little bit of power out of her game and not just crush it, but focus on placement … as a hitter in the SEC, all of them can hit like her. She has to learn to take off and use 80-90 percent of what she’s capable of.
“And we’ve been working with her on that ever since we got here her sophomore year. Hitting high, reaching high, hitting around blocks. Versus what it’s sometimes hard not to do, ‘They can’t stop it, I’m just going to knock the crap out of it.’”