Wednesday, May 22, 2019 Medina 50°

High School Volleyball

Gazette MVP: Wadsworth's Kacie Evans cements her spot as All-American girl

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    Wadsworth's Kacie Evans is the 2018 Gazette MVP in volleyball.



Before Kacie Evans played her first high school match, there was a buzz surrounding her.

Junior Olympic coaches touted her as an NCAA Division I prospect and every opposing team was aware of her immense potential.

In the four years since, it’s clear that Evans didn’t just live up to the hype, she exceeded it and became the best volleyball player in Medina County history.

The 5-foot-11 outside hitter completed her career with a county-record 1,569 kills and shattered the Wadsworth career marks with 1,490 digs, 1,245 total serves, 648 points and 157 aces.

No local athlete has mastered all facets of the sport better than Evans, who stands at the head of the class as a four-time All-Ohio selection and the initial county player to earn American Volleyball Coaches Association All-America honors.

“Individual awards are wonderful, and I truly appreciate and am grateful for every one of them,” the three-time Gazette MVP said. “But they’ve always been secondary to me, kind of like the icing on the cake, because nothing matters more than winning.

“Each time I stepped onto the court with my teammates, the only thing on my mind was doing everything I could to help Wadsworth volleyball be successful.”

Evans’ spectacular senior season powered the Grizzlies to unprecedented heights, topped by a 24-match winning streak that eclipsed the previous county mark by seven. She finished third in the state with 461 kills and led her team with 337 digs, 50 aces and a .608 serving point percentage.

The Ohio High School Volleyball Coaches Association named her to the All-Ohio first team for the second year in a row, while her fourth overall All-Ohio selection was two more than any other county player in history. The only previous local first-teamer was Brunswick’s Ally Badowski in 2015.

“You often hear about eighth-graders being can’t-miss future stars, but realistically, they’re very, very few and far between,” Wadsworth coach Jill Klingbeil said. “Kacie just had that rare quality — I’m not sure you could describe it, let along quantify it — where you could see that was the case here.

“She has the talent for sure, but it’s Kacie’s desire to be the best and to keep improving every day that makes her one of a kind. You couldn’t ask for more in a player or a team leader.”

The Grizzlies went undefeated in the Suburban League National Conference, won all 10 of their home contests and established a school record with 24 victories. Their remarkable run ended with a four-set loss to eventual state runner-up Padua Franciscan in the Brunswick D-I District final.

Along the way, Evans surpassed the county career kill mark of 1,263 held by Buckeye middle hitter Marah Farage (2006-09). She finished just six digs behind record-holder Jordan Verbiak of Brunswick (2012-2015).

“There was so much talent at our district — just incredible, future college players everywhere — but let’s be honest, there was only one Kacie Evans,” Blue Devils coach Mande Luttner said.

“I know most people focus on her hitting, which is amazing, but what makes her so special is the way she plays defense. She seriously could be a libero if she wasn’t so good at the net. I’ve never seen that combination of skills in a high school player.”

Evans’ signature play was her jackhammer-like swing from the left side of the net. She also drew gasps from the crowd when she took a set in the middle and drilled the ball off the shoulders (or often the back) of an in-position foe.

This season, though, the University of Georgia signee became almost as well known for her textbook digs. She squared up against the elite hitters in Northeast Ohio, made diving stops, then somersaulted back to her feet in one frenetic motion.

Evans’ passes out of those high-stress situations were on-point, affording setters Lauren Conley and Lainey Beavers the opportunity to feed Evelyn Haydu and Becca Dunkle on the outside or Erika Palidar and Sylvia Reynolds in the middle.

“I consider myself pretty lucky to have played alongside Kacie these last three years,” All-Gazette junior Haydu said. “Her court vision is great, and she’s able to analyze what is going on and devise a plan that will turn the tide in our favor. I am so thankful for her and all of the help she has given me. Working with her has been an honor.”

Evans is just as appreciative of the teammates and coaches who helped her claim back-to-back district player of the year awards and four All-Gazette certificates. She says they will remain in her heart as she relocates to Georgia next summer to compete in the Southeastern Conference.

The daughter of longtime coach Adam Evans and University of Akron Athletic Hall of Famer Jodi Juergens Evans adds that, no matter where she travels in the future, she will always be a proud Grizzly.

“I would like to thank the people who have watched me grow over the last four years,” she said. “I hope to have left a legacy not only as a player, but as a role model to others. Thank you, Wadsworth volleyball for all of the memories and life lessons.”

Contact Brian Dulik at Follow him @BrianDulik on Twitter.

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