January 09, 2013 - Elite athletes seem to have what is sometimes described as a sixth sense and have poise, vision and an awareness that often gives them a competitive edge over their opponents.
Katherine Carlson. (click for larger version)
Katherine Carlson, a 15-year-old Lake Orion teen who plays volleyball and basketball for Pontiac's Notre Dame Prep, is one of those rare and special athletes.
Katherine, who is only a sophomore, was voted to Michigan's first team All-State in Class B. She led all volleyball players in the state, regardless of class or grade level, in kills.
She also was recognized on the national scene, too.
Max Preps, a division of CBS Sports, honored Carlson with a first-team All-American nod in medium sized school rankings but also tabbed her as the top sophomore player in the nation. She was a finalist for national high school player of the year, too.
The 5-foot-11-inch Carlson is also a standout on the basketball court, playing point guard for the Irish varsity and helping her team to a 5-1 record early in the season.
On the volleyball courts this year, she amassed 923 kills in 1,500 attempts for a 61.5 kill percentage. She was third in the state in hitting percentage at .517. She had 62 blocks and served at a 96 percent clip with 45 aces and 214 points. As a primary passer, she also passed 295 serves and accumulated 403 digs. Notre Dame finished with a 51-10 record and lost in the state quarterfinals to North Branch.
Volleyball Coach Betty Wroubel said Katherine is the youngest player ever at Notre Dame to receive all-state honors in volleyball.
What makes Carlson so special, according to Wroubel, are her abilities to "see" things that others cannot.
"She has such amazing court sense and has the ability to see the court where other players cannot. She makes split second decisions, even when she is in the air, to adjust to a defense and see where the openings are. She has tremendous power but also has finesse," Wroubel said.
"Sometimes I am in awe of what she can see on the floor. She is two plays ahead of everyone else. What she has, I have never seen, at her young age."
Having the physical ability is one thing, but Wroubel said Katherine also is a student of the game and wants to improve.
"She pays attention and always wants to improve. She is a student of the game. She is a very hard worker on the court and in the classroom, too. She is at the top of her class academically."
Katherine is the daughter of Don and Tanya Carlson, of Lake Orion. She has a younger brother, Andrew who is an eighth-grader at St. Joseph School.
Tanya Carlson also was an all-state volleyball player at Notre Dame Prep and coached the sport for 15 years at her alma mater. She also coached at St. Joseph.
Katherine said she has been around volleyball players and the game since about fourth grade. She said she would always go to practice with her mom and loved the experiences.
Tanya coached Katherine and realized early on that she had special talent.
"She sees plays around her on the court and can make adjustments that others can't," Tanya said.
Needless to say, colleges have already been calling the family about Katherine playing volleyball and basketball.
Tanya said she and her husband are encouraging Katherine to enjoy her time playing and not to worry about college yet or even which sport she prefers.
Despite the fact that she is more than two years away from college, Katherine said she already knows she would like to play somewhere near home.
"I enjoy both sports about the same and really haven't decided which one I would like to play at a college level," Katherine said.
As for the honors she received this year, Katherine seemed stunned by the attention and accolades.
"Yes, I was very surprised and I am very grateful for them," she said.
Katherine Carlson's future, said Wroubel, is very bright.
"She could receive full scholarships for volleyball, basketball or academically. She will be successful no matter which route she takes."
Former Leader Editor Dan Shriner will cover Wildcat football this season.