Prep volleyball: Small size no obstacle for Layton's Eliza Katoa

Prep volleyball • 5-foot-9 outside hitter committed to Utah as a junior.
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It's a more-than-impressive stat line: more than 1,400 career kills, 420 kills this season alone, and a career-high — not to mention game-winning — performance of 41 kills in one evening.

Add a record-setting vertical jump, and you've got a player who faces a swarm of three blockers each time she approaches the net.

The numbers make one wonder what towering, 6-plus-foot volleyball force is behind it all.

Turns out, it's Layton's 5-foot-9 Eliza Katoa.

"People have always said, 'You're really short for an outside hitter,'" Katoa said. "But it's just made me work harder. Because I'm not that tall, I have to be able to make up for it. I play like I'm 6-5. If I have that attitude, it's all the same."

Sometimes great things come in small packages.

Katoa has shown throughout her career that she's in a league all her own. She leads the state in kills this season, surpassing the 400 mark during the regular season. She's been nominated for numerous postseason awards, including the prestigious and much-coveted Gatorade Player of the Year award.

"You can just tell she has something special," Layton coach Destree Donahue said. "You can't really teach what she has. It's just a natural gift."

Still, Katoa never has shied from testing her limits.

A college coach once told her that to be the best, she had to play beyond her skill level. From her earliest volleyball days, she competed against older girls. Her commitment to the sport is year-round, and her after-hours effort only is paralleled by her dominant presence at the net.

The result? She made a Junior Olympic team as a freshman, and the buzz around her skyrocketed. She was receiving recruitment letters by eighth grade and received her first scholarship offer her freshman year.

Rather than let her ego soar, Katoa buckled down. She committed to the University of Utah during her junior season and has been focused on improving her game ever since.

"I just always want to be better," Katoa said. "I make up for any of my shortcomings with effort and passion and try to bring that to the court for my team. That's just the way I play."

The Lancers always have known Katoa is crucial to their success, but they didn't realize just how much until their star outside hitter was sidelined with a season-ending injury last year.

The Lancers were undefeated in region play before Katoa's injury. They struggled and won just two of their last six games without their star.

"She is absolutely irreplaceable, but in a way, it was a blessing in disguise," Donahue said. "It was a wake-up call for us and helped the team improve. We're stronger because of it." —

State volleyball tournaments

at Utah Valley University's UCCU Center


Class 5A

First-round matches

3:30 p.m. • Brighton vs. Granger

3:30 p.m. • Pleasant Grove vs. Davis

3:30 p.m. • Fremont vs. Lone Peak

3:30 p.m. • Hunter vs. Alta

5 p.m. • Layton vs. Riverton

5 p.m. • Taylorsville vs. West Jordan

5 p.m. • Bingham vs. Cottonwood

5 p.m. • Lehi vs. Northridge

Class 4A

First-round matches

9 a.m. • Springville vs. Mountain View

9 a.m. • Sky View vs. Clearfield

9 a.m. • Woods Cross vs. Box Elder

9 a.m. • Olympus vs. Salem Hills

10:30 a.m. • Bountiful vs. Mountain Crest

10:30 a.m. • Skyline vs. Provo

10:30 a.m. • Timpview vs. Timpanogos —

Prep football playoff schedule

Class 5A

Friday's quarterfinals

3 p.m. • Alta at Lone Peak

4 p.m. • Pleasant Grove at Jordan

5 p.m. • Brighton at Herriman

5 p.m. • Riverton at Bingham

Class 4A

Friday's quarterfinals

3 p.m. • Olympus at Logan

3:30 p.m. • Corner Canyon at East

3:30 p.m. • Sky View at Timpview

4 p.m. • Salem Hills at Woods Cross

Class 3AA

Friday's quarterfinals

4 p.m. • Snow Canyon at Juan Diego

5 p.m. • Cedar City at Dixie

5 p.m. • Desert Hills at Stansbury

5 p.m. • Hurricane at Pine View

Class 3A

Friday's semifinal

at Southern Utah University

4 p.m. • Juab vs. Judge

Saturday's semifinal

at Southern Utah University

4 p.m. • Morgan vs. Manti

Class 2A

Saturday's semifinals

at Southern Utah University

11 a.m. • Grand County vs. North Summit

1:30 p.m. • South Summit vs. Beaver

Class 1A Friday's semifinals

at Southern Utah University

11 a.m. • Diamond Ranch vs. Duchesne

1:30 p.m. • Rich vs. Kanab