Kate Avila season stats:

Sets: 97*

Digs: 401*

Assists: 80 

* = team leader 

It didn't take long for freshman Kate Avila to make her mark.

In a win against Appalachian State on Sept. 10, the defensive specialist recorded 36 digs, the most of any Ball State women's volleyball player since Alyssa Rio’s 44 digs on Oct. 29, 2010, against Western Michigan.

On the season, Avila leads the Cardinals with 401 digs, third on the team with 80 assists and is also the only player on the roster to have appeared in all 97 sets this season.

“I wouldn’t say that I’m the biggest voice on the court,” Avila said. “But I think you really have to be able to lead by example, even if that’s more of a quiet leadership.”

Volleyball runs in the Avila family. Her sister, Laura, played at Bowling Green State University from 2010-13 and her father, Ramon, played at Ball State from 1975-77.

Ramon said his daughter has a different playing style than he had when he played for the Cardinals.

“Kate is more stoic, more reserved and more business-like,” Ramon said. “Back when I played, if I made a good play I acted like I had never done it before.”

Kate went to Yorktown High school, and the proximity is one of the reasons she chose to attend Ball State.

“It was just a pride thing for me, to be able to just come and represent the Muncie community,” Kate said. “I just love being able to play close to home – the morale, the support that you get from a school so close to your hometown is crazy, I didn’t even know that I would get that much support.”

Avila says that she has many motivators when she’s out on the court but having family there to support her gives her a little extra push. 

“My grandparents, aunts, uncles — everyone that lives here is able to come," Kate said. "Family is really important to me. Having them there and knowing that they can come to a lot of the games is definitely one of my motivators.”

Stephanie Bloom coached Kate at Yorktown and said she was "a coach's dream."

“She has a tenacity about her, some grit in her," Bloom said. "She wants to win at all costs and when you mix all of those qualities with her selflessness, she does whatever she can to make people around her better."

Her freshman year of high school, Kate was a setter. She moved to the left side as a sophomore, played libero as a junior and was put on the right side as a senior.

“She had an amazing experience in high school,” Ramon said. “When you can play four different positions, it makes the jump [to Division I college volleyball] a little more doable.”

Though Kate has only played the back line at Ball State, she's ready to adjust. It's part of why she's on the court so much.

"Whatever the team needs me to do could change in a moment’s notice," she said. "So I’m just trying to fill whatever role that they need.”

Ball State currently sits in second place in the Mid-American Conference West Division (9-15, 5-5) after starting the season 0-9. With six games left on the schedule, including three in Muncie, there are still a few more opportunities for Kate's family to watch her play. They probably won't see her on the bench much, either.