Athlete of the Week

Abbey Karcher, a 6-foot-3 senior middle blocker, has helped Belton to a 2-0 start in District 12-6A action.

BELTON — Abbey Karcher was fairly confident she would be on the varsity team last year as a junior. She was called up from the junior varsity squad as a sophomore to join the Lady Tigers for their playoff match and believed her time had come.

Of course, growing 4 inches over the summer between her sophomore and junior years also didn’t hurt her chances.

Karcher grew from 5-foot-11 to a towering 6-3 two summers ago, taking her friends, family and head coach by surprise.

“I think everyone was kind of shocked that I just grew out of nowhere,” said Karcher, a senior who has committed to Stephen F. Austin University. “My dad is 6-foot-4, but my mom is around 5-foot-9, and I have two older sisters who are nowhere near 6-foot.

“I’ve always been generally taller, but when I came into high school I wasn’t super tall — just super uncoordinated.”

Karcher doesn’t know what sparked the growth spurt and can only joke about what her secret formula is.

“I guess just drink a lot of milk,” she said.

Few people were as excited as Belton head coach Krystal Brodbeck upon hearing the news of Karcher’s growth last year and later witnessing it in person. After all, adding a visually intimidating, hard-hitting middle blocker has only improved the Lady Tigers, who seek their third straight playoff berth this season.

“Any coach would be thrilled to have their players jump up inches over the summer,” Brodbeck said. “She also puts in a lot of work outside the regular season. She really enhanced her game to get to this point.”

The added height forced the left-handed Karcher to make adjustments to her game. With an improved view of the court, her strikes became more accurate and powerful, and her blocks became increasingly well-timed and consistent.

Gone are the days when she relied upon blind luck on the court. She’s too tall and too skilled to do that now.

“I was kind of like a baby giraffe for a little bit,” Karcher joked. “When I was younger, I just kind of went up and hit the ball and hoped for the best. But when you get to this level, you really have to find the open spots.”

As a senior, Karcher (26 kills in two district matches) has helped the Lady Tigers (10-18, 2-0 District 12-6A) get off to a strong start in 12-6A after a challenging tournament slate. Her passion to improve has gained the respect of her peers on and off the court.

“Abbey is a player that the others look up to,” Brodbeck said. “She’s able to get very intense and fire everyone up. When things get tough, she’s the one who will step up and put the ball down. It inspires everyone around her.”

Karcher prides herself on being a considerate teammate. It’s a feature she recognized in Stephen F. Austin during the recruitment process and one that put the Ladyjacks at the top of her list.

“I felt that they wanted me,” Karcher said. “When I visited, they really just showed me how I would fit into the team and how I would be a part of their family. It just felt like a great match.”

Karcher’s size should equip her to succeed at the college level but, according to Brodbeck, the height doesn’t define her. Her work ethic, drive to improve and ability to step up at any given moment provides a foundation for success in a variety of fields.

In other words, even at 75 inches tall, the sky is the limit for Karcher.

“She is fun and very quick-witted. She never misses a joke and is fun to be around,” Brodbeck said. “I have no doubt that her internal drive will make her successful at whatever she chooses to do.”