Smoot spike a spot on court with Wildcats
UA outside hitter Katie Smoot spikes the ball against GCU on Sept. 1 in McKale Center.
As Arizona wraps up non-conference, Katie Smoot got an early taste of what college volleyball looks like. The outside hitter/opposite has made transitions on and off the court leading her to play in the Pac-12 conference.
Smoot, from Belmont, California, a small town about 30 minutes away from San Francisco, has been playing volleyball since she was 11 years old after being recognized for her height.
“I was playing basketball at the time then I just watched club volleyball and I was like, ‘I’m going to try it,’” Smoot said.
Smoot attended Notre Dame High School, an all-girls private school. Her head coach Jen Agresti gave her words of advice that hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard. Agresti’s words motivated Smoot through her journey as a volleyball player and has been her motto ever since.
The transition from high school to college is never easy, especially for a college-athletes playing in the PAC-12 conference. Smoot is taking 12 units this semester and thinks the volleyball aspect is a lot harder than school, which came to her by surprise.
“I think keeping up with the competition and always trying to do every single step right has been harder for me than I expected,” Smoot said, “and meeting the coach’s expectations.”
Smoot wasn’t alone in her transition to becoming a Wildcat since teammate and roommate Candice Denny was also being recruited to Arizona.
“It is fun dorming with her, we played club together since we were 15,” Smoot said. “I was really happy when she [Denny] committed to Arizona.”
Arizona head coach Dave Rubio has stressed that he was looking for someone to step up and lead the team during non-conference play and Smoot believed she was able to do just that. In Smoot’s opinion, skill wise, the year in college doesn’t matter.
“I think work ethic and how it goes at practice, freshman can step up and keep people accountable, which a lot of the times upperclassman don’t like,” Smoot said. “You can have a senior who is OK and then you can have a freshman come in and be the best player in the country. Experience is something that is important and I think seniors and older players do have an upper hand on freshman and sophomores.”
Smoot has had to change and adapt to Coach Rubio’s playing style, including changing up her passing. After passing in her club team for two years, Smoot had to adapt to the Wildcat’s defensive style making her arm swing quicker. Smoot has also had to change up her serving since coming to Arizona. Going from a float serve to a topspin, Rubio believes her new serving style will be more effective when she starts hitting harder.
Playing on the court at McKale Center has been a new experience for Smoot as she is adjusting to her surroundings and the fans.
Smoot is grateful to be able to play in the Pac-12 conference because it keeps her connected with home.
“We get to play Stanford and Cal, which are really close to my family,” Smoot said. “I knew the Pac-12 was one of the hardest conferences to play in so I wanted to challenge myself.”
Smoot felt like Arizona’s coaches and players made her feel more at home than other schools recruiting her. Smoot looks up to outside hitters Kendra Dahlke and Tyler Spriggs and hopes to be able to play like them during her time as a Wildcat.
“Being able to play all six rotations and have all those kills. I think they are really good players to look up to because of how hard they work in practice and games,” Smoot said. “Their effort is really impressive.”
Smoot explained how Rubio and assistant coach Gregg Whitis continue to tell the team not to be so hard on themselves.
“Our coaches are hard on us, but we are even harder on ourselves and that sometimes messes with how we play mentally,” Smoot said. “I know I’m really hard on myself.”
The 6-foot-2 freshman has played in 19 sets and nine non-conference matches so far as a Wildcat posting 26 kills, nine digs and three aces. Smoot knew Arizona had a strong lineup and was shocked when she was able to step onto the court as a freshman.
“My back row defense, is what I have been working on a lot lately,” Smoot said, “and being more aggressive when I am playing because that’s what coach Rubio wants from me. When I am attacking he says I am very hesitant and I don’t commit to my line of attack.’
Hoping to continue to contribute throughout her time playing at Arizona, Smoot is ready to come into a game at any point.
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