• Photo Showcase: Kadie Rolfzen, 2012 girls high school athlete of the year
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Kadie Rolfzen's earliest volleyball memory centers on her mother and a pair of persistent fifth-graders — Kadie and her twin sister Amber.
“We kept bugging our mom and asking her if we could play it,” Kadie said. “We'd been playing basketball before that, but we wanted to give volleyball a try.”
Kadie and Amber have gone on to excel in the sport they will eventually play at Nebraska. And for her achievement this past season in three sports — volleyball, basketball and track and field — Kadie is honored as the 2012 World-Herald Nebraska high school girls athlete of the year.
The award, which began in 1976, is based on observations by the newspaper's sportswriters. Other finalists were Andrea Weeder of Lindsay Holy Family, Alicia Armstrong of Beatrice, Alyssa Frauendorfer of Humphrey, Michaela Mestl of Kearney Catholic and Clara Nichols of Millard South.
Kadie Rolfzen and her Papillion-La Vista South teammates entered the 2011 volleyball season brimming with optimism. The Titans were coming off a 41-0 season, their first state title and a No. 1 ranking by two national web sites.
“We wanted to keep that win streak going,” Rolfzen said. “And we wanted to win another championship.”
The Titans did just that, extending their two-season unbeaten streak to 82 matches while repeating as Class A champions. Rolfzen said her most vivid memory of the season came in Papio South's dramatic five-set road win over nationally ranked Lenexa (Kan.) St. James.
“We lost the first set and then trailed 10-1 in the second before we came back,” she said. “I think that victory, in front of that loud crowd, gave us the confidence to know we could beat anybody.”
Three Nebraska recruits from that Titans team — the Rolfzen sisters and Kelly Hunter — earned All-Nebraska honors. It was the third consecutive year the Rolfzens were honored and the second time for Hunter.
Kadie, an outside hitter, reached the 400-kill mark for the third straight year. She had 443 as a freshman, 405 as a sophomore and 402 as a junior.
In addition to kills, she also led the Titans in four other offensive categories — hitting efficiency (.440), aces (53), blocks (36) and digs (382).
“What I really liked about Kadie this season is that she stepped it up as far as being a great teammate,” Papio South coach Gwen Egbert said. “She was a positive presence, as well as becoming an even better player.”
After the Titans again were crowned the No. 1 team nationally, it was on to basketball. Optimism wasn't flowing quite so freely in that sport, considering Papio South would begin the season with its third head coach in three years.
“It had been an adjustment each year,” Kadie said. “But we listened to our new coach (Andy Gerlecz) and did what he wanted us to do.”
Despite her size, Rolfzen became the team's point guard. At 6-foot-3, she might have been the tallest player at that position — boy or girl — in the state.
“The thing about Kadie is that not only is she a great athlete, she has a tremendous competitive spirit,” Gerlecz said. “She hates to lose, and that kind of attitude is something everyone picks up on.”
The Titans got off to a rocky start, losing the second game of the season by 51 points to Millard North. But the team eventually got rolling and rode an eight-game winning streak into the state tournament.
Papio South won its first game but then lost a heartbreaker in the semifinals, falling to eventual state champion Omaha Central in overtime. The Titans finished the season with a win over 2011 state champion Bellevue East in the consolation final.
Rolfzen averaged 13 points and 9.5 rebounds to earn a spot on the All-Metro Conference team. She also helped Papio South reach 20 wins, a first for the young school.
During the spring track season, Kadie competed in four events. She ran the 200 and the 800 and ran legs of the 400 relay and the 3,200 relay.
“The girls gravitated to Kadie and Amber because of their personalities and their leadership skills,” Titans girls track coach Jerrid Johansen said. “They were both important members of our team.”
Papio South placed in all four of Kadie's events at state. Her best finish was second place in the 200, where she ran close behind gold-medal champion Nichols.
“I enjoy running track because you don't have the pressure that you've got in volleyball,” she said. “You're not expected to win every event.”
Her junior year was the final time Kadie competes in basketball and track. She and Amber will play volleyball as seniors this fall before graduating early to get a jump on their volleyball careers at NU.
“We're already thinking about Nebraska, but we don't want our last volleyball season to be a blur,” Kadie said. “We've got a streak to keep going and another championship to win.”
Before that final varsity season begins, the Rolfzens and Hunter have even more volleyball to play. The Papio South trio recently was selected to compete for the women's junior national training team.
“To think that we have three girls from the same school competing at that high of a level is really amazing,” Gerlecz said. “It obviously says a lot about their athleticism.”
The Rolfzens get that athleticism from parents Mark and Teresa, who played basketball at Kearney State. That inner drive has been honed over the years while playing against older brother Ryan, a 6-foot-7 sophomore forward on the Wayne State basketball team.
“Sports have always been a big part of our lives,” Kadie said. “That's never going to change.”
Rolfzen, who wants to major in graphic design at Nebraska, said her dream job would be to work for Nike. She also has designs on someday competing as a member of the U.S. Olympic volleyball team.
“Kadie has ridiculous skills in every sport she tries,” Johansen said. “I don't think anything she accomplishes in the future would come as a surprise.”
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