By Noah Allison –
Volleyball libero Caitlin Welch remembers just like yesterday her days of
going to cheer on her local U of L volleyball team. Growing up as a Cardinal, she also
set out to someday play volleyball as a Cardinal. Now she enters her senior season
as the Cardinals all time leader in digs with 1,604. She returns a team that is coming
off a 30-4 record in its final season of Big East play. The Mercy Academy graduate’s
U of L volleyball career is pinnacling in front of her and it is hers’ to finalize.
“I started playing volleyball just for fun when I was eight years old, just
playing in my backyard bouncing the ball against the house. I joined my first
travelling AAU team when I was ten,” Welch said. “At that age you don’t even really
know what competition is, I just saw it as getting a chance to play on a team with a
bunch of really good girls.”
The Louisville native is definitely a by product of the city she grew up in.
Frequenting U of L volleyball games helped build the passion Welch now has for the sport.
“I came to every Louisville volleyball game when I was younger and when I
was nine that is when I knew that that is where I wanted to be when I was their age,
I’ve been surrounded by Louisville volleyball my whole life,” Welch explained.
The 5-6 Welch is U of L’s libero, the soul purpose of the libero is to be the last
line of defense when the volleyball is launched 90 mph down at the floor. Welch has the
uncanny ability to get down and send these back the opposition’s way, thus, you
have a dig. Welch notched her 1,000th career dig in the season opener of her junior
campaign, adding on to the total every time she gets down for a deny.
Welch made her transition from a talented player to a special player upon
the arrival of current U of L volleyball Head Coach Anne Kordes. In Kordes two years
U of L volleyball has a combined record of 54-13.
“When I came here as a freshman I would have to say that I was very
immature, when Anne came in everything changed. My sophomore year was
probably the hardest year I went through in volleyball, almost to the point where I
just wanted to stop playing. Anne pushed me to the limit, she was either going to
push me to the limit where I would succeed or she would push me to the point of
quitting and giving up,” Welch said. “In practice she would just boom impossible
balls that I couldn’t get to or went straight for me, she would bang them at me until I
was in teas and to my face she would tell me that I need to grow up, and sometimes
that’s what people need to hear. From that day forward I’ve grown up and starting
last year I became a new person, I said this it, I have two more years and I need to
put it all on the line.”
Welch is just one of four players on the team representing their hometown
of Louisville as a Cardinal, along with her is senior outside hitter Emily Juhl out of
Sacred Heart Academy, sophomore setter Katie George who comes from
Assumption, and freshman outside hitter Maya McClendon whose moving right
across the street from duPont Manual to U of L.
“Louisville is a volleyball town, that’s for sure. We have volleyball teams all
around the city from grade school teams, high school teams, to club teams, its
everywhere,” Welch said. “So to bring these girls in to represent Louisville is a huge
accomplishment because its not just bringing in talent from one school in the area,
its getting the top talent from all around the city. When you can get girls like Maya
McClendon who was a top recruit in the nation and went to duPont Manual is just
really big and it shows what Louisville volleyball is and what we are all about as a
Welch now heads into her senior season knowing that the feeling is “bitter
sweet”; sweet to get the opportunity to play in her prime, to lead this program, to
live her dream to be a Louisville Cardinal. Yet bitter to know that all the little
moments she has cherished are quickly becoming but a thing of the past. But she
still has her last ha-rah, and in many ways this upcoming season is everything that
little girl in the stands has been waiting for.
“I saw these girls play 13 years ago and I said that’s who I want to be. I
remember seeing one particular play and saying I want to be out there making that
play, and now here I am heading into my final season,” Welch said. “If you have a
dream, strive for it. It’s definitely not going to be easy, it’s going to take a lot of hard
work, it’s going to take a lot of mental focus and some tears too, but it’s definitely