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Prep volleyball: Timpview volleyball star brings a toughness gained on rugby pitch

Published November 2, 2016 4:54 pm

Prep volleyball • T-birds will be among the favorites in the 4A tournament thanks to the efforts of libero Kat Stowers.
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Volleyball coaches aren't necessarily looking for tall-as-timber athletes at the libero position, because the player who fills that role is always stationed in the back row.

No, what's required is someone quick and tough, someone that can dig out the hardest kill shots from the opposite side or chase down balls deflected and heading far away from the court's borders.

That's what Timpview coach Kristen Bailey got when Kathryn Stowers walked through the door. And when Bailey says that Stowers is one of the best liberos she's ever had at the school, you can believe that that's pretty good.

Timpview has won Class 4A championships in 2011, 2013 and 2014, and the Thunderbirds will be in the mix this year when the state tourney begins Thursday.

"She is fearless, she's not afraid to hit the ground or afraid to end up in the bleachers," Bailey said. "We've had liberos before who are afraid of getting hurt.

"You know, that happens a lot with girls. We've had players hit their heads on the floor, then they get scared to go after a ball again," Bailey added. "She's been hurt and she never wavers — she goes after everything."

Stowers' toughness and competitiveness didn't come from years of playing volleyball, though, but from a family tradition in the sport of rugby.

And it's rugby that has already led to Stowers being able to compete overseas. She was part of a United States national team that competed in September at the European championships in France and finished second in the 18-and-under category.

"My dad plays rugby and I started liking it because it lets me be physical," Stowers said. "A lot of parents are like, 'I don't want to let my daughter or son play because I don't want them to get hurt.' But it's as safe as any other sport."

Stowers is a senior at Timpview and her height of 5-foot-8 is around average for a libero. In girls' rugby, it's the average size for all players.

In a modest explanation, Stowers says that her position of scrum-half in rugby is roughly equivalent to a quarterback in football — modest because she just played the position for an All-American U18 team in Paris.

"She's athletic and she's really, really smart. We have this thing we call 'Rugby IQ,' because the structure in rugby is imposed by the players, and she thinks really fast and it's second nature to her," said Matt Kanenwisher, who coaches Stowers on the United club team in Utah.

"She plays scrum-half, but she's the one player on the field who could play any position," Kanenwisher added. "Few people are that fast and that good a tackler, that aggressive and that physically strong."

At Timpview High, most of Stowers' classmates don't really know this, because rugby is far from their minds.

"It's kind of hard because they don't know anything about it. With football, they at least know some things about it," Stowers said. "I just tell them that they only thing we have to do in rugby is pass the ball backwards. That gets you in a good position — and then you just run."

For a few more games, Stowers will take on a role not unlike what she does on the rugby pitch, as Bailey is taking advantage of her libero's leadership qualities.

"She knows it's her job not to let a ball drop. And she knows that every ball that drops to the court, whether it's her fault or not, we tell her it's her fault," Bailey said. "That's the rule, so she holds the other players accountable to get their jobs done as well." —

Tournament previews

Class 5A • Because of how the regions are stacked up against each other in this year's bracket, the powers from regions 3 and 4 are likely to face off in quarterfinals on Friday, rather than semifinals on Saturday. Lone Peak and Pleasant Grove, from Region 4, along with Bingham and Brighton, from Region 3, are the top four ranked teams in 5A. The team on the biggest roll entering state is Lone Peak, where first-year coach Reed Carlson has punch from hitters Madelyn Robinson, Tasia Farmer and Gabbi Shumway and solid setting from Kacie Huntsman and Jaquelyn Langhaim. Pleasant Grove remains a threat to win it all behind a tall frontline led by junior Heather Gneiting. Bingham has gradually improved throughout the year, and the Miners have a versatile, young attack led by setter/opposite side hitter Seleisa Elisaia. Brighton may have the best outside hitter in 5A in Utah-bound Dani Barton. If anyone can break through to the championship outside of this group, it might be Sky View with hitters Abby Harper on the left and AveRee Knowles on the right.

Class 4A • Bountiful is the defending champ in Class 4A, but the Braves started the 2016 year with a new coach (Sarah Chism) and without their leading hitter from '15 (Kennedy Redding, now at BYU). But senior Seyvion Waggoner has smacked 301 kills for Bountiful, which has gotten better and better through the course of the current campaign. Lying in wait for the Braves are a host of teams from Region 7, and Bountiful may end up having to beat three of them to grab another title. Corner Canyon, led by setter Seville Likes as well as talented young hitters like Madison Brunatti, won the region. Bolstered by the likes of Mikayla Upham, who played for 5A champ Lehi last year, Skyridge finished second, while Timpview, with a pair of the hardest hitters in the state in Jensyn Turner and Selai Damuni, will also be a tough out. Maple Mountain and Skyline both enter the playoffs as region champs, in Region 8 and Region 6 respectively, and both sets of Eagles hope that translates into success.

Tournament schedule

At Utah Valley University

Class 4A


First round

• Skyridge vs. Wasatch, 3 p.m.

• Bountiful vs. Judge Memorial, 3 p.m.

• Skyline vs. Woods Cross, 3 p.m.

• Salem Hills vs. Timpview, 3 p.m.

• Bonneville vs. Olympus, 4:30 p.m.

• Corner Canyon vs. Springville, 4:30 p.m.

• Maple Mountain vs. Mountain View, 4:30 p.m.

• Murray vs. Box Elder, 4:30 p.m.


• Skyridge/Wasatch vs. Bountiful/Judge, 6 p.m.

• Skyline/Woods Cross vs. Salem Hills/Timpview, 6 p.m.

• Bonneville/Olympus vs. Corner Canyon/Springville, 7:30 p.m.

• Maple Mountain/Mountain View vs. Murray/Box Elder, 7:30 p.m.

Class 5A


First round

• Brighton vs. Davis, 9 a.m.

• Lone Peak vs. Northridge, 9 a.m.

• Weber vs. Lehi, 9 a.m.

• Viewmont vs. Copper Hills, 9 a.m.

• Sky View vs. American Fork, 10:30 a.m.

• Layton vs. West Jordan, 10:30 a.m.

• Bingham vs. Syracuse, 10:30 a.m.

• Pleasant Grove vs. Fremont, 10:30 a.m.


• Brighton/Davis vs. Lone Peak/Northridge, noon

• Weber/Lehi vs. Viewmont/Copper Hills, noon

• Sky View/American Fork vs. Layton/West Jordan, 1:30 p.m.

• Bingham/Syracuse vs. Pleasant Grove/Fremont, 1:30 p.m.






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