by Ben Lypka
It’s not often that a rookie starts in Pacwest volleyball. It’s even more rare for a first-year player to be named captain.
Mission’s Kara Williams is the exception to the rule.
Williams has become a key player on an emerging UFV Cascades women’s volleyball team as they make their late push towards the playoffs in the Pacwest.
She’s been hovering near the top 15 in the league in digs, and has become a leader both on and off the court for the Cascades.
The Hatzic Secondary grad said she’s been volleyball crazy since Grade 4, but got really serious about the sport when she moved to high school.
“I had a coach, Curtis Chaplin, who was really invested in me and he encouraged me and made me love the sport.
Chaplin, a former winner of the Mission sports volunteer of the year, was the main reason Williams transferred from Heritage Secondary School to Hatzic for her high school volleyball. Williams said that the sport of volleyball is a big deal at Hatzic, noting that teachers Carolin Chezzy and Lorraine Mar ran an extracurricular volleyball program while she was there that encouraged students to learn refereeing and tournament organizing.
Her high school highlight was helping to lead Hatzic to a fifth place finish in the AA tier in 2015.
It was through Chaplin that Williams became intrigued by the possibility of suiting up for the Cascades.
“Coach would always take us to Cascades games starting when we were about 16, and it was just always the school I wanted to go to,” she said.
Williams began practicing with the Cascades just before her Grade 12 year, and signed with them later that summer. She continued practicing with the team throughout the year in anticipation of her first year of college. She said the months of practicing with the team helped ease the transition to college.
“It made for an easier transition, but the schooling environment has been a lot different. Sometimes it can be a bit of a struggle balancing athletics and school, I’ve spent a few nights up late studying.”
Cascades head coach Mike Gilray said Williams has been a great fit in her first year.
“She’s a very strong and physical player and is very poised on the court,” he said. “She has a great foundation to build on from high school and we’ve been trying to find her best fit on the team and get her reps in a number of positions.”
He noticed her leadership ability early.
“It was almost like she was a returning player,” he said. “The girls all knew her well enough and the nice part about that is that she’s been able to be a bit of a go between for the new girls coming in.”