By Wesley Wilcox | firstname.lastname@example.org
Not every high school athlete has intentions of playing after graduation, but this was the case for Flagler College senior volleyball player Caitlyn Kovach. Just out of high school, Kovach had originally made plans to attend Florida Atlantic University, but instead an interesting proposition arose that she could not turn down. Kovach at the time played for a club team and was in a match where then-head coach of volleyball for Flagler College Brian Heffernan was scouting a player on the opposite team.
“I wasn’t gonna play (collegiately). I was on a team with friends who all played with each other. I was signed up to go to Florida Atlantic and had a roommate,” she said. “My club team played versus a club team Brian was looking at, and Brian talked to my parents.”
Kovach then decided to visit St. Augustine and Flagler College to test the waters of playing college volleyball.
“I really liked the girls on the team. By the end of the trip my heart had changed,” she said.
Kovach like the others in the class of 2016 have played for two coaches in their careers in Brian Heffernan and current head coach Matt Affolder, but Kovach said this didn’t affect her.
“You take the good. Every coach has a way of teaching. It was about taking techniques from Brian and Matt and making it work.”
Kovach in her career has managed to accumulate 1,773 digs and plays as the heart of the defense as the “libero,” which is the defensive specialist of the squad
Having a new head coach after the one that recruited her left had little to no impact on her game.
“What I value most about Matt is that he talked to us. It wasn’t physicality, but he wanted a relational aspect,” said Kovach.
Following the departure of Heffernan, someone else arrived for the Saints alongside Affolder, and that was another defensive specialist in junior transfer Ashley Lechleidner Rodriguez. Rodriguez made a name for herself up the road at FSCJ, setting a school record for the Blue Wave in single season digs as their defensive specialist. Heading into Affolder’s first season as head coach there was a competition between Kovach and Rodriguez for the spot as libero for the Saints, but Kovach basked in the competition.
“I was excited. I love competition. It was an interesting dynamic to be welcoming, but also to understand you are battling it out for that position,” she said.
Adding a presence like Rodriguez to the rotation has done wonders for the Saints even into this season as they sit two wins away from not only a regular season title, but also clinching home field advantage throughout the conference tournament. This team has done wonders in only Affolder’s second season, but Kovach believes their best play is in front of them.
“We’re big. We’re physical. We have a lot of talent. When everyone’s doing their job we are tough to beat. It comes down to how much we’re willing to embrace a battle. You’re going to have to fight,” she said.
The Saints end the regular season at home this weekend against Peach Belt Conference’s number one team, USC Aiken Friday night at 7 p,.m., and conclude the season Saturday afternoon for Senior Day against Lander University at 2 p.m. in the Flagler College Gymnasium.