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Cuero's Washington helped lead team to success

By jhornberg
Dec. 24, 2010 at 6:24 a.m.

Cuero ladies volleyball team play against Titans at the East High School Gym. Tuesday, September 14, 2010. MARIE DE JESUS/MDEJESUS@VICAD.COM

Kelsey Washington was scared entering this year. The task ahead of her was more than just attacking a volleyball with feared power.

Cuero graduated several seniors after last season, and there were several new, and young, faces on the team.

The senior outside hitter knew she was expected to take on a new role, one of mentor.

She embraced it wholeheartedly.

"It felt different, because some of the girls were so young, and they looked up to the seniors," she said. "It made me feel like a better person when one of the girls came up and said, 'I want to hit like you, Kelsey.'

"I was scared, but I thought we were good. After a few games the nerves went away."

Her coach wasn't surprised.

"She's the girl we all look up to, and a lot of girls want to be just like her as far as bringing that power when she hits," said Lady Gobblers coach Rebecca Riojas-Fryer. "She works hard, she's a great person to look up to and a great leader."

Washington's leadership of a Cuero team, along with her offensive dominance and defensive ability led to her selection as the Victoria Advocate's 2010 most valuable volleyball player.

The senior was one of the most powerful hitters in the area, getting 598 kills this season.

The multi-sport athlete has won awards in basketball and in volleyball, but the latter is where she sees her future.

"I'm looking at (Texas Lutheran)," she said. "They've talked to me, and the coach wants me to play there."

The Lady Gobblers returned just three varsity players, and Riojas-Fryer expected the team's seniors to set an example on and off the court.

"My goal was to make the playoffs," Riojas-Fryer said. "I believe we peaked at the right time."

Nerves became a thing of the past for Washington, who is a four-year letter winner for the Lady Gobblers.

Her role and position have changed over the years, from talented hitter to mentor for the younger players.

"My freshman year, I was terrified, I'd just come from junior high and practice was nothing like I was used to," Washington said. "Sophomore year, I didn't play what I play now, but we worked a lot. ... Senior year, it was about helping my teammates.

"Every year, my skills got better and better."

Washington's talent was apparent ealy on to Riojas-Fryer, who also coached her in middle school.

"I remember coaching her with the eighth grade A team," she said. "From the first time I saw her with a volleyball in her hand I knew she was going to be something special."

Washington said hard work is what got her to this point, and it was something she hoped to instill in the younger Lady Gobblers this year.

"You got to want it," she said. "It comes from being in this gym every day."

Washington can serve, set, dig and get kills with volleyball's best.

In basketball, she can play post and point guard, or, really, anywhere her coaches need her to.

It begs the question: Is there any sport Washington can't do?

"Golf," she said with a laugh.

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