With less than 50 days until UMHB’s fall sports officially get underway, it is now time to begin looking at the incoming recruits from the Class of 2022, and their backgrounds and goals as they join the Cru for the upcoming season. True To The Cru will bring you interviews such as this one regularly throughout the next couple of months, featuring athletes from all 15 varsity sports.
BELTON-When the UMHB volleyball program released its incoming recruiting class on April 25, head coach Mark Pryor included a short analysis on each of the eight newcomers. Of Crawford high school outside hitter Katie Warden, he said, “Katie has the potential to be one of the most terminal left sides in the league long term. She has a very heavy arm when she contacts the ball. She will make our gym more competitive immediately.”
That is indeed true, as Warden displayed her skill set for several seasons in the high school ranks with 2A state power Crawford. In fact, she concluded her senior year as a four-time All-State selection and the program’s single-season record holder in kills.
True To The Cru recently caught up with the 5’10 hitter to discuss her commitment to UMHB, success at the high school level, and more, in this edition of “Catching up with the Commits”.
As you went through the recruiting process, what UMHB the program for you?
KW: “Living so close to UMHB as is, I’ve always been around it, and followed it closely, and their volleyball program has been so successful. When I finally got the chance to come down to Belton and see it for myself, it already felt like home to me. I could see how successful everyone was, and you can’t be that successful without having some sense of community.”
UMHB head coach Mark Pryor is known as a great recruiter. What role did he play in your recruitment?
KW: “I played club at Waco Juniors volleyball and he came down to the gym a few times to watch practice. I thought it was really cool that he talked to me and a few of my teammates after practice, not only to see how good we were, but to make sure that we would mesh well with the players already there. When I came down to Belton and he introduced me and a few of the new recruits to some of the current players, I think that was one of his big priorities, not just to see how good of a volleyball player you are, but to see how good of a person you are too.”
You played for a fantastic high school program there in Crawford, where you all experience a lot of success. What did you take away most from your high school career?
KW: “We went to state in my last three years of playing .We had great leadership my freshman year. From where I started in high school to where I am now, it shaped me to become a team leader. I was always the quiet girl, but I think it depends on who you have around you [to help you grow as a leader]. We had a lot of great girls come through Crawford who were excellent role models to look up to.”
This past year, you were one of three seniors on the roster. Did you feel like you had to step into that leadership role even more?
KW: “I definitely did. But having us three who had been through it all together, there was never a doubt in my mind that they wouldn’t have my back or that I wouldn’t have theirs. I feel like I’m going to have the same experience at UMHB. If you’re ever struggling, just look behind you, and they all know that you’ve got it too.”
Your list of high school accolades is lengthy. Just in 2021, you were named a District MVP, to the Texas Girls Coaches Association Legacy All-Star Team, and a TAVC All-State honoree. Did you feel like that success came gradually or was there a break-out point for you?
KW: “I really do think that it was gradual. But everything I accomplished I know I couldn’t have done without my teammates there. We were all in it to win it together. I couldn’t get kills without a great setter and I couldn’t have gotten to where I was without someone teaching me how to do that. I know it’s a 2A school, but to break that [single-season kills] record was a really big accomplishment for me because coming in, I had a senior who had just broken that record herself. I always had somebody to look up to and coaches to push me.”
You all reached the state tournament once again this past year during your senior season. Could you tell entering that season that something special was in store?
KW: “I knew that we were definitely going to do some special things. I think all the younger players knew this was me and my two seniors’ last run. They all knew that we really wanted it, and that it could be a special season, and they wanted it just as much as we did. So once we got into the gym, it was either you’re all in or you’re all out.”
Do you have a memory that sticks out from your high school career?
KW: “One memory that really stuck out was when we won the regional tournament final [this past year]. It was a five-set match against Bremond, and the power went out midway through. Everything that could possibly go wrong went wrong, but we pulled it all together and ended up winning it. It was a really special moment on the bus afterwards, because we were all so excited about getting the chance to go back to state.”
Looking ahead to UMHB, do you know what you’ll be majoring in at this point?
KW: “My sister is actually graduating from the nursing program this year. I’m looking forward to being on campus with her and I’m going to be studying biology/pre-med, hoping to become a dentist or orthodontist one day. I’m looking forward to getting into labs and being more hands-on.”
As you approach your freshman year, set to start in just over a month, what are you most excited about?
KW: “I’m most excited to play at a higher level. This has been one of my goals since I first touched a volleyball. It’s really cool to accomplish this for myself and for my family as well, because they’ve pushed me here. The first time I get to wear the jersey and be there for my team, I think it will be really cool to see all the fans for the first time and experience the atmosphere [of college volleyball].”