Stephanie Bloom, Yorktown volleyball head coach and former Ball State Women’s Volleyball player, labeled Kate Vinson as a “quiet competitor.”
It was Vinson’s freshman year at Yorktown, and Bloom was watching the Tigers play Delta in the sectional championship. Down by one point in the fifth set, Vinson was up to serve. She was the only freshman on the court at the moment for Yorktown.
“Because she was a little bit more subdued, I think I misunderstood her a little bit and didn’t realize how much competitiveness she did have,” Bloom said. “I just remember thinking, ‘OK, we’re going to see what she can do.”
Vinson served an ace, tying the set at 14 apiece. The Tigers went on to win the set 19-17, which also gave the Tigers the match.
“That was the moment for me when I was like, ‘All right, this kid has got a ton of grit in her, and she’s going to make it,’” Bloom said. “That was a really cool moment that I will always remember about her.”
Throughout her high school career, Vinson guided the Tigers to three Hoosier Heritage Conference titles and recorded 2,505 assists in more than 400 sets played. Now, just over 6 miles away from her former high school, the defensive specialist/setter looks to bring her competitiveness to the Cardinals as she prepares for her first season with Ball State Women’s Volleyball.
Not only is Vinson excited to represent her local school, but she will mirror Bloom’s playing career. After playing for Yorktown, Bloom played for the Cardinals from 2001-04 before accepting the Tigers’ head coaching position in 2008.
A 2015 inductee into the Ball State Athletics Hall of Fame, Bloom ranks third in Mid-American Conference history with 2,273 digs over her collegiate career.
“[Bloom] had a really big impact,” Vinson said. “She has taught me a lot about each position and how to be a really good volleyball player. It’s just amazing to look back at how much she has impacted my volleyball career and my personal high school career.”
While Vinson is the only former Yorktown player on this year’s team, Ball State has a history of recruiting defensive specialists from the Tigers. Kate Avila and Kati Vasalakis — 2020 and 2016 Ball State graduates, respectively — previously played the position during their time with the Cardinals.
Unlike Avila and Vasalakis, though, Vinson will also play setter for the Cardinals. Head coach Kelli Miller Phillips said Vinson’s versatility was one of the first aspects of her playing style that stood out when the Cardinals began practicing earlier this fall.
“She’s a super hard worker,” Miller Phillips said. “She’s capable of playing libero, she’s capable of playing defensive setter, she’s capable of setting. Whatever you throw at her, she is very willing to accept and do the best she can in that particular role in that moment. She doesn’t get overly amped up, but she doesn’t get overly low.”
Vinson is one of four freshmen on this year’s team, along with outside hitter Cait Snyder, middle blocker Lauren Gilliland and defensive specialist Zoe Conway. Bloom said she is proud to see Vinson represent her alma mater.
“It is super fun for me when I have former players go and play [at Ball State],” Bloom said. “It will be an awesome experience to get to have people in the community that already know them come to their games and cheer them on. It’s a win-win in a lot of areas.”
For many high school seniors, the process of choosing a college can be lengthy and exhausting. However, that wasn’t the case for Vinson, whose relationship with Bloom and knowledge of Yorktown’s ties to Ball State greatly influenced her decision.
“I kind of knew this is where Stephanie had gone, and I just wanted to stay kind of close to home,” Vinson said. “I had many talks about how she liked it here. She said it was a really good choice for her, and I knew it would be a good choice for me.”
When contrasting Bloom’s coaching style to that of Miller Phillips’, Vinson said there aren’t many differences.
“Both of them are very competitive with working hard on every single play and not taking a play off,” Vinson said. “I loved coach Bloom throughout my high school career, and it was just really nice to come to college knowing that I would have those similarities with Kelli as well.”
Although the postponement of MAC fall sports delayed the start of Vinson’s collegiate career, the conference released an operational plan Oct. 12 for women’s volleyball to begin a conference-only schedule this winter. Ball State is tentatively set to begin its season in January, playing 22 matches.
This winter won’t be the first time Vinson has played on the hardwood of Worthen Arena. She played at Worthen twice over her high school career — in the 2016 and 2018 Indiana High School Athletic Association state final matches. The Tigers won both matches, defeating Providence High School in 2016 and Avon High School in 2018.
“It won’t be the state championship every single game, but I feel like it will give me that competitive drive to want to play hard when I go into that gym to play,” Vinson said. “I think it will help me with playing in there for Ball State now and knowing what the atmosphere’s like.”