BEECHER | Katie Howard started playing volleyball in middle school and described her position as "fake libero."
Judging by the scabs on her right shin from diving for volleyballs, Howard is anything but a "fake."
The Beecher senior patrols and controls the back row for the Ladycats, who won the River Valley Conference title with a 12-0 record and finished the regular season 21-8 overall.
"I've always been a libero," Howard said. "I love it because I love to dig and hit the ground. I like diving a lot."
Howard played a big role in Beecher's win against conference rival Grant Park last week. Her all-around ability showed, as she had nine digs, an ace and two assists. The Bobcats lost both matches to Grant Park last year.
"This year there was no question she'd be my starting libero," said Beecher fifth-year coach Jessica Linn. "She has poise in the back row. We look to her for a lot. She takes control."
Howard usually plays the left back position on the floor to handle the opponent's toughest hitters, but she's never confined to one spot.
Howard is constantly moving on the court, covering lines, covering her hitters and taking over as setter when necessary.
"She takes the second ball for us if the setter can't get there," Linn said. "She's never even set for us but there was never a question she could do it."
Linn isn't the only one who praises her senior passing specialist, who is a two-year varsity player.
"Coaches from other teams always give me compliments on her," Linn said.
Beecher senior middle hitter Meghan Jacobson also values Howard's passing ability.
"She does a good job getting the passes to our setter," Jacobson said. "As a middle I understand the importance of getting a good pass to get a good set. She gives us good passes so we can run our offense."
Howard is also a three-year varsity player on the basketball team and will be a four-year varsity player on the softball team. But volleyball captures her heart.
"I love volleyball," she said. "It's my favorite sport, but I know I have big shoes to fill."
Howard is referring to former Beecher libero Kari Sebrowski, who died from cancer on Sept. 19, 2010, shortly after graduating.
"She was a big inspiration to me," Howard said. "I wanted to be like her.
"She was competitive and a strong athlete. She got to all the impossible balls and passed them up."
Howard looked down at the number 10 on her white libero jersey.
"This is her old jersey," Howard said. "She helped me out a lot. I know I have big shoes to fill."