Only a junior, Katy Jo Mroski is attracting big-time attention from major colleges.
By JOE SCALZO
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
HUBBARD -- Every day, Katy Jo Mroski gets about 18 or 20 letters.
The letters come from college volleyball powerhouses like Penn State and Ohio State. Others are local schools like Akron, Kent State and Youngstown State. Still others arrive from random schools like Saint Bonaventure.
"I don't even look at them anymore," Mroski said. "My mom is usually the one that opens them."
And she's just a junior.
Imagine getting 18 to 20 letters from colleges every day. Imagine being 6 feet, 2 inches tall, a height that makes recruiters salivate on their shoes. Imagine being so good that you need only worry about where to go to college, and not how.
"She's the standout," Hubbard coach Chuck Montgomery said. "She's the star. Someone that's 5' 5 may be a great player, but major colleges won't look at her. Someone that's 6'2, they think 'I can bring her along on this level.' "
So far: Mroski started playing volleyball in seventh grade and "loved it from the first day." She went straight to varsity as a sophomore and had six kills in her first game. She was proud of it at the time; she's embarrassed by it now.
Mroski carries a 3.6 grade point average, plays basketball and junior Olympic volleyball in the winter and has won a school art show for her drawings.
"She was very quiet about that," said her mom, Kathy. "Her drawings are wonderful. She's entering a contest at YSU."
Her parents, Kathy and Robert, go to every game. Whether it's in California, Florida or Kentucky, it doesn't matter.
"My parents have never missed a game since I was 6 years old," she said. "They're my biggest fans. They're always there. My mom's always yelling, my dad's always giving hand signals to show me what to do. Everyone can hear my mom. She's the loudest person in the stands."
Richard Mroski calls his daughter "his best friend in the world."
"I try and enjoy every moment," Richard said.
Kills: Last year, Mroski set the school record with 28 kills in a match against Strongsville.
She wants to get at least 30.
She was voted second team all-state in Division II last year, missing the first team by one vote.
She wants to be first team.
She plays on a Hubbard team that has won 126 straight Trumbull Athletic Conference matches.
She wants that streak to stay intact as long as she's there.
All three are possible, even likely.
"When she gets hot, she can carry a team," Montgomery said. "She makes big plays at big times for us.
"It's like having Michael Jordan on your team."
District regulars: Montgomery started the Hubbard volleyball program in 1991. The TAC-8 streak began in midseason of 1993. The Eagles have been to the district finals each of the past five years and to regionals three of the past five.
He said only one player in his tenure compares to Mroski: Allison Fischer, a 6-0 sophomore at Cleveland State.
He says Mroski's better.
"She makes my job easy," he said. "She makes me look like a good coach."
Obviously, Hubbard's success doesn't come from one player. Mroski and Montgomery are quick to credit the entire team.
Seniors Amanda Lingenfelter and Amy Falhammer, who has a college career ahead of her, and Cortney Hoch are among those Eagles that do the things that can go unseen.
And then there's junior setter Nicole Pringle.
"She's my best friend," Mroski said. "We always tell each other what's wrong; I tell her when I want the ball. We count on each other."
Montgomery calls her a "good kid, always happy, real fun-loving."
In a game against Lakeview last year, she taped her ankle and walked in with crutches to make the Bulldogs think she was hurt.
Trashtalk: Mroski doesn't talk trash, but gets plenty from other players.
"You hear it," she said. "They say stuff like 'You're going down' and 'You [stink].' I've heard that I'll never make it at Ohio State."
Even Montgomery says it -- if only as motivation.
"He'll tell me in practice, 'You can't do this, you can't do that,' " she said. "I always prove him wrong."
There are few doubters left. People tell her she's the best player Hubbard's ever had. Recruiters promise full-ride scholarships. Fans come out just to watch her play.
Right now, she's not sure where she's going or what's she playing. She wavers between basketball and volleyball depending on what she's playing at the time.
"Whatever I'm doing at the time is what I want to do," she said. "I'm just pushing myself to get better."