July 10th, 2015

Heading for a crowning achievement

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Paul Najjar

Senior Writer

Heading for a crowning achievement
Katie George (right) hugs coach Ron Kordes after leading Assumption to a state volleyball championship in November 2011 / file photo by Paul Najjar

In our nearly five years of existence, the staff writers at the Louisville Catholic Sports Network have had the privilege to watch and talk to thousands of student athletes. When you follow them through the ranks, from CSAA through high school and into college, they bring back fond memories.

Some you get to know more than others. Some stick out because of their maturity, their leadership, their pure talent, their intelligence and, as we’re Louisville Catholic sports, even their faith.

I’ve covered every prep sport in the past five years. Over one thousand games and several thousand athletes I’ve enjoyed watching compete. Among the top five student-athletes I’ve been fortunate to cover is former Assumption All-American, now University of Louisville star, Katie George.

You know her and Louisville loves her. And right they should. Valedictorian of her senior class at Assumption, George won back-to-back state volleyball titles, was captain of the team, earned All-State, Miss Volleyball, All-American and the Gatorade Kentucky Player of the Year honors her senior year. Not to mention the most motivated and positive leader I’ve encountered on the high school level.

Someday, she will probably have one of those giant murals on the façade of a building in town. You know, “Katie’s Louisville.”

On a bit of a whim she entered and won a local pageant that led to winning Miss Kentucky for the opportunity to represent the commonwealth in the Miss U.S.A. competition.

She’s that impressive. And a legion of fans will be watching her Sunday night at 8:00 p.m. on the Reelz Network (check your cable network) or watch live online at www.missusa.com.

Blessed with tremendous athletic ability, a relentless work ethic and stunning good looks, it wasn’t always easy for George. The summer before her senior year she was diagnosed with a blood clot in her leg that not only threatened her senior year of school and athletics, but threatened her life.

Surgery and blood thinner medication corrected the problem and she was cleared to play a few days before the volleyball season opened. She donned compression hose around her affected leg and wore a soft helmet to ease the impact of a blow to the head that could potentially trigger another clot.

Yet there she was after every match we would cover waiting to answer questions. And she always had a comment about how silly she looked with that helmet on, but then would add: “At least I’m still playing.”

She never relented to her plight. She played with the same trademark intensity that made her great. She was perhaps the most effective high school student athlete leader I’ve ever seen. Whatever she wanted to do, she did. Whatever she wanted her teammates to do, she figured out a way to get them to do it.

George led her Rockets to a 43-1 record and a No. 3 national ranking from the ESPNHS Fab 50 that year. She was named the tournament MVP at the prestigious Durango Classic in Las Vegas leading Assumption to that title. She recorded 683 assists, 197 digs, 114 kills and 75 service aces that year and earned Second Team All-American honors by Under Armour.

Ron Kordes, her venerable high school coach who currently is zeroing in on win number 1,000, talked about her leadership right after the easy state championship win over Greenwood. The picture accompanying this article is the hug they shared after winning the title. A hug of relief, mutual respect and love that only a coach and great leader can bring.

"There are five seniors out there that that I'm really happy for," coach Kordes said. "They waited their turn to get into this arena behind seniors last year and I'm happy for them to have this opportunity. No drama all year. You put fifteen teenage girls together and you have no drama, something's good about that. Great leadership and the coaching staff did a phenomenal job."

For her part, George was matter-of-fact about her team and sounded very much like her coach. But, she also deflected praise to her teammates for the tremendous season they experienced.

"For a season that I wasn't sure was going to happen, I'm so blessed and so proud of our team to have finished this way," George said. "I never expected us to have this good of a season, I'll admit that. But we meshed so well and the team chemistry was awesome. We had a better year than we did last year, even with having lost those six seniors. You can't dream of a better season than what we had this year. We're not just teammates, we're sisters."

She battled and overcame a potentially life threatening blood clot. She’s flourished at Louisville and continues to thrive as the captain and heart of their top-tier program. The combination of brains, brawn and beauty to go with her intense competitive drive make her a unique force.

George aspires to a career in broadcasting and turns heads in every media center she enters. She graciously grants interviews and appearances even though her schedule is packed full of training, rehearsing, classes and other commitments.

Down to earth, easy-going, but a fiercely intelligent, independent thinker, George can disarm you with her manner. She’s as comfortable hanging with guys as she is with the girls, thanks in no small part to her older brothers Tim and Charlie. Her parents, Annie and Tim, will endure their share of nerves this weekend, but rest assured they know what their daughter is capable of achieving.

Watching her compete or just walking down a street, you’d follow her anywhere. Even to a crowning event like Miss U.S.A.

Good luck, Katie, from all of us at the Louisville Catholic Sports Network. 


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