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Kansas volleyball winning titles on court and beyond

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Victories and honors never stop pouring in for Kansas volleyball players, past and present.

The Jayhawks have gone 57-6 the past two years with Kelsie Payne earning first-team All-American honors both seasons and Ainise Havili picking up first-team and third-team All-American honors. KU appeared in the Final Four in 2015 and won the outright Big 12 title in 2016, pushing national runner-up Texas into second place.

And the Jayhawks’ hot streak extends beyond the volleyball court.

Catherine Carmichael, who started 27 matches during her five years at Kansas (2009-2013), brought more pride to the program with a recent accomplishment in a competitive arena of another sort.

Carmichael was crowned Miss Kansas USA 2017 after a three-day competition (Nov. 25-27) in Mulvane. She also won the swimsuit award. Wearing her sash and winning smile, Carmichael was on the scoreboard waving as she was introduced to the Allen Fieldhouse crowd during Tuesday night’s 90-88 men's basketball victory.

A graduate of KU and Manhattan High, where she was a two-time all-state selection in basketball, Carmichael is assistant director of recruiting for David Beaty’s football program. Her contributions at Kansas have been to the volleyball and football programs, but her first love was basketball, a sport her mother played at Bemidji State and her brother played at Illinois State.

Kansas volleyball coach Ray Bechard first became involved in recruiting Carmichael when he was scouting a high school teammate.

“I don’t even know if she played that night,” Bechard said of Carmichael. “We watched her warming up and she stood out. I did a home visit with her and she and her mom looked at me like I was crazy: ‘Coach, you’re the only one recruiting us.’ I told them you’ll redshirt a year, you’re going to begin to figure it out and we think by your third year, you’ll be a Big 12 volleyball player.”

That’s how it played out.

Carmichael turned down basketball offers from Creighton and Pittsburg State to come to KU as a preferred walkon and now calls that, “the best decision I ever made.”

Kansas' Catherine Carmichael makes a block during Kansas' volleyball match against West Virginia, Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013, at Horejsi Center.

Kansas' Catherine Carmichael makes a block during Kansas' volleyball match against West Virginia, Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013, at Horejsi Center. by John Young

A 6-foot-2 outside hitter during her playing days, Carmichael uses her organizational skills as assistant director of football recruiting. That job entails arranging the schedules (academic meetings, etc.) and other details (lodging, etc.) for recruits who make visits to campus. During the season, Carmichael flies ahead to road football games to make sure that everything in the team hotel — meal plans, meeting rooms, etc. — are in working order.

Lindenwood University in Missouri, where Beaty was wide receiver and class president, supplied scholarship money for the winner of the competition. Carmichael said she intends to use it toward a Masters degree from the school in a to-be-determined field via online classes.

Carmichael said she first competed in a pageant at the age of 18 and didn’t return to that arena of competition until finishing her volleyball career.

“I got back into it to feed my competitive spirit and got a coach,” she said. “A lot of people view doing pageants as a whole different realm from playing volleyball and working in football recruiting, but it really isn’t.”

Success in all three fields, she said, requires the same qualities, which she defined as, “hard work and determination.”

It took plenty of that in volleyball considering that Carmichael was recruited on potential.

“I messed up every drill in practice my freshman year and I’m sure the rest of the girls were thinking, ‘What in the world?’ There were times I even thought, ‘What am I doing?’ But it ended up being the best experience I’ve ever had,” she said.

Carmichael said the contestants for the Miss USA pageant expect to find out when and where it will take place in the next month.

Her schedule has her making appearances at various fundraisers, including ones near and dear to her heart, those that benefit pediatric cancer. Her younger brother is a two-time cancer survivor.

Reunion night for Bechard

Carmichael was not the only former Bechard volleyball player in the crowd Tuesday night.

K-State sophomore forward Dean Wade’s mother, Trish, was a two-time juco All-American volleyball player for Bechard at Barton County Community College.

Bechard visited with Wade’s parents, Jay and Trish Wade, before Tuesday’s game. Trish, volleyball and track coach at St. John High school, coached her volleyball team to state titles in 2008, 2010 and 2011. Jay lettered in 1985 as a wide receiver at Kansas State before transferring to Western Illinois.

Comments

Brett McCabe 3 years, 8 months ago

Gosh what a great story. Congratulations Catherine, and congratulations to Bechard for digging a little deeper than the competition in finding a quality player and person. Thrilled that she's helping build the football program.

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