Watson digs Loyola: South Tahoe volleyball standout signs with NAIA Wolf Pack
Volleyball plays a major role in Kaitlynn Watson’s life, and it will continue to do so beyond high school. Watson signed with Loyola University New Orleans on Friday, Nov. 13, following two seasons as a standout for the South Tahoe volleyball team.
“I’m just so ecstatic for the opportunity to continue my experience onto the next level — it’s exciting,” the Vikings senior said. “It means so much. I’ve been working my whole life for this, academically and athletically.”
Watson picked Loyola over Southeastern Louisiana, Fresno Pacific, Wellesley and Bryn Mawr. She ultimately went with the Wolf Pack because of their volleyball program, academics and campus located close to The Big Easy.
“The team and the coaches are so great,” Watson said. “I feel like it’s a home away from home, and if I’m leaving so far away that’s what I really needed.
“It was really interesting to be able to pick, but it’s kind of a relief because it’s finally over.”
Loyola is an NAIA program that plays in the Southern States Athletic Conference — last season the Wolf Pack finished with a 17-21 record. Watson expects to make an impact for Loyola right away, either as a defensive specialist or at libero.
“I knew when she came up here a couple years ago we had somebody special,” Vikings coach Dan McLaughlin said. “It was just a question of the right fit for her and we’re glad we found it. She can certainly play at the next level.”
Watson moved to South Tahoe prior to the 2014 campaign, and spent her junior and senior seasons with the Vikings after two years at Clovis North High (Fresno, Calif.). This year she set the school’s single-season record for digs with 370 — she was a first-team Div. I-A Northern League selection both years while finishing with 634 digs and 72 aces.
“She’s been a really solid player for us the last two years and we’ve been very fortunate to have her,” McLaughlin said. “She wants to get everything up in the air and she takes it personally if anything gets by her. That’s what drives her — that competitive spirit.”
A defensive standout in both her years with South Tahoe, Watson became a force on the back row during her senior season. The Vikings ran a defensive system designed to take advantage of their captain’s skill set — and flourished with the 5-foot-4-inch libero serving as the team’s defensive backbone.
“She relished it and did an outstanding job,” McLaughlin said. “She has shown a style, and hopefully the returning kids understand what it takes to play at the level she performed at.”
South Tahoe finished with a 10-9 record in 2015 and made the playoffs after a two-year absence. Watson was named the team’s Most Valuable Player and her play was a major reason why, even if her serious skills were offset by a lighthearted approach to the game and a contagious, outgoing personality.
“Volleyball is such a big aspect of my life, and to be able to be a team and a family with these girls is such a great experience,” Watson said. “It makes me love the sport even more.”