CHS senior gets her day at the beach
Karlee Kavanaugh has always had a ball on the beach.
When the Kavanaughs used to go on vacation, Karlee always made sure to tuck a volleyball under her arm on the way to the surf.
“When I was younger me and my dad would always pepper on the beach whenever we went on family vacations,” Kavanaugh said, referring to the simple drill of bumping and setting the ball back and forth.
Karlee’s dad, Kelly, said his youngest daughter wore him out with her love of the outdoor version of the game.
“Something about the beach and the sunshine and what it takes to play in the sand, she just loves it,” he said.
Turns out, Karlee’s love of beach volleyball was more than just fun in the sun. On Thursday, April 12, the 5-foot-9 Chugiak High senior signed a National Letter of Intent to play collegiate sand volleyball at Division I Georgia State University in Atlanta.
“Karlee’s ditching the knee pads and sneakers for sun and sand and the city,” said her mom, Donna, following the signing ceremony in the CHS library.
Karlee said she fell in love with Atlanta during a recent visit to the school, where she said she plans to study communications with the goal of becoming a speech pathologist.
“It was the perfect fit for me,” said Kavanaugh, a first-team All-Cook Inlet Conference performer for the Mustangs.
Kelly Kavanaugh — who also served as his daughter’s coach at CHS — said Karlee’s versatile all-around game translates well to the sand version of the sport.
“She’s good at ball control, and she anticipates very well,” Kelly Kavanaugh said. “That’s key to any game, but sand especially.”
In contrast to high school indoor volleyball, which features a standard six-person team, beach volleyball is played with teams of two. Karlee said beach volleyball players aren’t as specialized and must be equally good setting, digging and spiking.
“You can’t just be good at one skill,” she said.
Georgia State will play its inaugural season of sand volleyball during the spring of 2013, meaning Karlee will be a pioneer of sorts. And while her journey from frigid Alaska to “Hotlanta” might seem like a big leap, Karlee has actually been laying the foundation for a future on the beach for several years. In 2010, she made USA Beach Volleyball team that traveled to Russia and was coached by two-time Olympic gold medalist Misty May-Treanor. That exposure was key to Karlee’s development, Donna said.
“USA Beach Volleyball gets a lot of credit for taking a chance on a kid that lives so far away,” she said. “It’s really thanks to them for the opportunity to practice and train with girls from all over the country.”
Another member of that team, Arizona’s Milani Pickering, has also signed on to play at Georgia State next season, and Karlee said she’s excited about the prospect about helping build the Bulldogs’ first-year program from the ground up.
“I can’t wait,” she said.
Contact Matt Tunseth at 694-2727.