By Jonathan Deal
Katie Roberts has been on the go this year. Following her junior season at Ardmore, Roberts joined a travel volleyball team in the winter and recently won her first county championship to finish her prep career at the school. Most recently, Roberts has been named the Limestone County Player of the Year.
“This year, I felt like we never stopped,” Roberts said. “Coach told us all year that we don’t have the privilege to relax. We had to fight for every point. We knew that it’s never OK to not give everything. We learned how to fight.”
Roberts and her team fought their way to the second round of the Super Regional in Huntsville and were a win away from a state tournament berth. Ardmore lost to the eventual state champions, Madison County, but it didn’t take away what has been a special year for the Lady Tigers.
“We had great senior leadership,” said Ardmore head volleyball coach Rebecca Martin. “None of them felt like they were an all-star. All five of them knew their role, played very well and it was just all about the team.”
Three of those seniors made the All-County first team, including Roberts, who led her team to a third consecutive playoff appearance. Roberts said she feels honored to be voted MVP from Limestone County’s coaches.
“Whenever you look at me compared to other hitters, I’m not the tallest or the strongest,” Roberts said. “I was able to help the team with all that I learned (in the offseason). I think it helped us grow tremendously.”
Roberts joined a travel volleyball team out of Huntsville following her junior season with Ardmore. Her coach said she noticed a change in Roberts play immediately when the senior rejoined her team in the summer.
“The biggest thing I noticed about Katie’s play is that she began to play with confidence,” Martin said. “She was always hard on herself and kind of played inwardly. After playing with the travel team, she plays with confidence. She doesn’t let things get to her anymore. She is always focusing on what is next. She plays more mature and with a lot more confidence in her ability.”
Martin echoed Roberts’ modest comments about her physical stature compared to other hitters at the high school level. But what the versatile player lacks in height, she more than makes up for in other areas, according to her coach.
“Katie, for her height, is a very smart attacker,” Martin said. “She has a strong vertical that really helps her. And then, she is also really smart about knowing where to put it in order to get the point. And that’s important. Not only can she go up against those blockers that are 6-foot, she plays smart.”
Martin and Roberts both pointed to two games in the last few weeks that defined Ardmore’s season. First was a Sept. 27 match against Athens in which the Lady Tigers fought back to win three consecutive games.
“The first match of the game, they killed us,” Martin said. “It was almost like they were chuckling, thinking, ‘this is going to be a piece of cake.’ And then we came back and beat them three straight. It was all from the girls’ effort. They just never stop. Even when we lose, they still come back in the next game.”
The second game of note was in the county tournament, where Ardmore beat East Limestone, a team it had lost to in the championship game the past two seasons. Trailing 23-15, Ardmore scored 10 consecutive points to stay alive and forced a final game, which they won to claim the school’s first county championship under Martin.
Due to a distinct height advantage, Roberts would struggle to compete as a hitter at the collegiate level playing volleyball. But that doesn’t mean she couldn’t do it. Her coach believes she would make a fine defensive player in college, if she chooses to do so.
But Roberts has other plans. She was accepted to the University of Alabama and plans to continue her academic career in Tuscaloosa after graduating from Ardmore in May.