Southeast Missourian volleyball player of the year: Scott City's Hogan reaches for lofty goals

Thursday, January 27, 2011
Scott City junior Katie Hogan finished with 370 kills and 425 digs for the Rams this season. (Laura Simon)

The Scott City volleyball team returned to the court this season with a much different look a year after claiming the school's first state championship in the sport.

Two setters, a middle and an outside hitter were gone. Only junior Katie Hogan, outside hitter Mikah Simpson and right-side hitter Danielle Gibbons returned.

"We knew that we had to come out fighting and show that the seniors were helpful for the last year, but we needed to prove to everyone that we were just as good without them," Hogan said. "I was hoping I'd get a few more sets and then have less errors and then I'd have to step up my leadership responsibilities because our club coach talked about it all club season last year."

Hogan's production skyrocketed as a junior. She had 370 kills, 86 solo blocks and an uncounted number of touches, intimidations and double blocks that also resulted in points for the Rams.

Those numbers, while gaudy, might be expected from a 6-foot-2 middle hitter who often towers over her opponents. What is surprising is the 425 digs she racked up patrolling the back line for the Rams defense.

"Whenever people look at me, they're like, 'Oh, you're a middle. You can't pass, so just hit it to her,'" Hogan said. "That's how I got a lot of my digs. They just kept hitting it to me and kept hitting it to me and part of it was the block, too."

Hogan's dominating -- and complete -- game make her the Southeast Missourian volleyball player of the year.

Scott City plowed through its regular season with a 26-5-2 record. The Rams won their school's first ever SEMO Spike tournament title with a win over Notre Dame in the championship match, and notched wins over Perryville, Leopold and Jackson.

But the season, which according to Hogan was filled with drama on and off the court, came to a surprising end when Scott City lost to St. Vincent in the district title match after the Rams won the first game 25-11. Scott City beat the Indians during the regular season.

"We came out in the first game and we completely smoked them," Hogan said. "We used all of our offense. I think Whitney [Froman] had like eight kills in the first game.

"We were just using all of our offensive hitters, and in the second game we just kind of let down and didn't try as much. The second game our coach was just like, 'Come on, girls, one more and we have a district title and we can go to sectionals and beat Bloomfield.' It just seemed like everyone was looking forward to getting revenge with Bloomfield and I just think everyone let down."

The chance to avenge a loss to Bloomfield earlier in the season slipped away.

"The third game we came out there and our attitudes were down and we all wanted to win," she said. "But we just didn't have the team connection by that time."

Talking about the loss, especially the notion that overconfidence played any role in it, still stings. There still is a long wait before her senior season begins.

Hogan's time now is split between starring for the Scott City basketball team and playing for North Stoddard Scott County volleyball club, the team and the coach obsessed with making her even better.

Carl Ritter Jr. was in his last season as the Scott City volleyball coach when Hogan was in the seventh grade, but he's coached her club team since then.

"She needs to step up and play even more aggressive than what she does," Ritter says now, "because she's trying to get to a totally different level of the game."

The next level

Hogan has traveled across the country playing volleyball for the NSSC club team and participating in USA Volleyball High Performance Championships.

"Right now at the high school level, she's a phenomenal athlete for Southeast Missouri," Ritter said. "But when you get out of the little pond of Southeast Missouri, Katie's just another duck in the puddle, and she knows that. She's seen it. She's gone to these high performance trainings and she knows that.

"And the thing is, she can play with them. Katie can play with them."

USA Volleyball, the organization responsible for the training of America's Olympic teams, selects players for its national teams at each age level at tryouts Hogan has attended. Hogan has been invited to participate in the level of competition and training that falls one step below the national-team level for three years running.

Ritter said he routinely fields questions from college coaches about Hogan, but it still is unclear at what level in the college ranks she'll end up playing.

"She's going to get lots of good looks just because of her height," Ritter said. "Her height is going to turn the heads of the college coaches already. The thing that she needs to develop is body strength and also her vertical needs to get better, and she knows that. I've told her."

Hogan said Southeast Missouri State and Drake have contacted her about playing basketball. She heard from Saint Louis University and SIU-Carbondale, to name a few, about volleyball.

"I'm more so wanting to go for volleyball, but it depends on what I get offered," Hogan said, acknowledging that she didn't even know if playing both sports would be possible at the college level. "I may want to go for basketball, and if SEMO offered me a volleyball and a basketball, I'd probably take it in a heartbeat even though I don't really want to go to SEMO."

Ritter said her key recruitment time won't arrive until spring, when the team travels to Atlanta and then Kansas City, Mo., for national tournament qualifying.

"Honestly I could see a higher level D-I recruiting her and maybe redshirting her for a year to get her stronger," Ritter said. "She's got the potential that she'll get a lot of good looks."

She also could choose to spend two years at a high-level junior college. There won't be many options unavailable when she makes her college decision, which is what worries her.

"I've tried and I've gotten so nervous," Hogan said when asked if she's spent much time pondering the next step. "I just don't want to make the wrong decision because if I go somewhere and I don't like it and I transfer, I have to sit out a year. And should I go to a junior college? That way I could be nationally looked at. Or should I go to a four-year? That way I'm in the program already."

Hogan can keep her focus on the court for now.

"Everybody looks at her and they think, 'Oh my gosh, I wish my daughter had that height,'" Ritter said. "Well, yeah, that's true. I wish my daughter would have had that height, too. But when you don't have that height, that means you have to work harder to achieve. And when you've got somebody like Katie who's tall and has athletic ability, you hate to say they're not challenged, but they're more challenged when they're playing with kids as big as they are and that's better than they are. That's what begins to challenge them."

Ritter said he's seen more maturity in Hogan's game and on-court actions this season than any since she's been in high school.

"She matured as a player from the standpoint she's not as picky about where the ball's set," he said. "She was bad to want it just perfect, and I'm like, 'Katie, you're 6-2. Six-two should not have to worry about whether the set's perfect. Get up and put the ball away.'

"I've seen that maturity in her that needs to come if she's going to go on and play at a D-I level. You're not going to get the perfect set every time, but you've got to whale away at the ball. You can't tip it. You've got to swing hard, and she's learning that."

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