MEET THE MVP: West's Kalich critical to West's success
Dec. 15, 2012 at 6:15 a.m.
She used to play softball, but would jump out of the batter's box when other girls hurled the ball a little too close for comfort.
Volleyball players across South Texas probably wish Kelsea Kalich had more courage at the plate.
"I got scared in softball when they did the kid pitch," Kalich said. "My mom saw a flyer for volleyball so she signed me up for volleyball at the (YMCA)."
That was in elementary school. In the decade since Kalich has channeled her competitiveness and intensity on the volleyball court.
It culminated in a 2012 season where she had 562 kills and 360 digs to help Victoria West remain one of the premier volleyball programs in South Texas. She added 56 blocks and 53 aces this fall.
Those efforts are among the reasons Kalich is the Victoria Advocate's 2012 area most valuable player.
It doesn't hurt the senior outside hitter was a co-captain for a Warriors team that went 36-8 and advanced to the regional tournament for the third time in the West's three-year existence.
"I liked the bond I formed with my teammates," Kalich said. "There were times in practice that were hard, but we pulled ourselves through it. I wouldn't have traded any of them."
Nor would they have traded her. Kalich's 562 kills led the area this year, many of which were of the forceful, punishing variety that let opponents know she meant business.
Off the court, the 18-year-old senior was described as a kind-hearted, intelligent and sweet person by West coach Sandy Longoria. However, on the court she plays at a level above others because of her intensity.
"What coach wouldn't want that?" Longoria asked rhetorically. "It's what everyone would hope to have on the court."
For the past three years, Longoria was able to witness it with a better view than most. Kalich, as well as fellow 2012 all-area selection Rachel Hamon, have been two mainstays for the Warriors as they breezed through District 30-4A without a loss for the third straight year.
Opponents may also thank softball for Kalich's prowess in attack. Since she played softball with her right hand, she also played volleyball with her right hand. She, however, writes with her left hand.
"I started softball right-handed. My dad was kind of upset," Kalich said with a smile.
Regardless of her dominant hand, it didn't stop her from sprawling around on the court. When she was younger Kalich said she wanted to play in the middle of the back row so she could dive around to extend rallies.
Being an outside hitter at the varsity level didn't curb those tendencies. If anything, it provided an extra element to the Warriors defense the last three years.
Longoria said Kalich is extremely self-motivated and a perfectionist. Whether it was a practice, or a game, she would look for ways to improve.
Over the years there were a lot of practices, considering Kalich was a four-year letterman.
She wore No. 19 as a freshman at Victoria Memorial. That number wasn't available when West opened, so she chose No. 13 because it represented the year she was supposed to graduate.
Instead, she will finish early and enroll at Texas A&M. Kalich was accepted into the Mays Business School and will head to College Station a semester early. Her goal is to earn a degree, then head off to medical school so she can be an orthopedic surgeon.
As busy as she may be in College Station, Kalich hasn't ruled out continuing her volleyball career in Aggieland.
"I don't think I'm ready for it to be over," she said. "It's been my whole life since third grade. I will like the competition. I like being driven to my limits."
Should she decide to become an Aggie athlete, she would follow in the steps of her grandfather Steve Niles - a three-time letterman and co-captain of the 1971 Texas A&M basketball team.
Meanwhile, another Kalich will be at Victoria West next year. Kasey, 14, is a football and baseball player at Cade Middle School. Whether he will be as dominating as his older sister at the varsity level remains to be seen.
"If I get my sights on something I do everything in my power to reach it," said Kelsea when providing context about her goals of leading the area in kills, going undefeated in district play and helping West return to the regional tournament. "I wanted people to see that just because we lost people we weren't going to lie down and not fight."